How 2,500 cows can produce water clean enough for drinking is about to be answered on a dairy in the northwest corner of Washington State.
Last week, the Washington State Conservation Commission (WSCC) awarded a $930,305 grant to install and operate a clean water membrane technology system provided by Regenis, an agricultural waste solutions company, to be located at Coldstream Farms in Deming, WA.
This state-of-the-art system will generate 12,000 gallons of clean water daily from the 22,000 gallons of cow manure the farm produces through a unique combination of nanofiltration and reverse osmosis.
Once treated, the water is suitable for farm animals to drink or even to benefit local salmon runs by increasing streamflow.
Additionally, by separating solids from liquids, the system can generate 8,000-gallons of nitrogen and potassium-rich concentrate daily for use as a chemical-free fertilizer. The remainder of the captured manure is a phosphorous-rich solid nutrient. Nothing from the process will be discarded.
"Clean water is our most precious resource," said Regenis Vice President, Bryan VanLoo. "Adding 4.3 million gallons of it every year is the equivalent of adding the length of three-and-a-half football fields, 50 feet wide and 10 feet deep to our watershed."
Once Regenis installs the system this fall, the company will operate it through the end of the grant period in June 2019. Meanwhile, the Public Utility District (PUD) No. 1 of Whatcom County is working with the State Department of Ecology to create a confluence between the new stream of clean water and the Nooksack River.
"The PUD is a steward of water and energy resources and resource protection for the benefit of the residents, businesses and agricultural community of Whatcom County," said PUD General Manager Stephan Jilk. "The PUD considers this clean water membrane technology as a viable solution to some of the water resource issues we are facing, and we hope to see the technology replicated on other Whatcom County farms."
Some of the remaining captured nutrients will be trucked to local berry producer, Maberry Packing, and seed potato grower, Ebe Farms, for testing as a replacement to imported fossil-based fertilizers.
Galen Smith, co-owner of Coldstream Farms, which is one of Darigold's co-op milk providers said "Nothing should ever be wasted when you look holistically at the dairying process. We believe in being good stewards of our land and providing a wholesome product to our customers. Growing our crops with chemically-free nutrients and putting clean water back into our local streams is just another step along the way to closing the loop as nature intended."
"Our customers have been telling us they need options for their manure treatment to reduce liquid volume and to concentrate nutrients. Now we can reduce their trucking costs, increase their revenues with a valuable commodity and reduce their need for a fresh water supply," VanLoo said.
Regenis will begin taking orders for their clean water membrane systems starting Aug. 1 in the United States and Canada.