In an effort to positively impact the environment and his bottom line, all Cullman County farmer Kevin Allen had to do was look toward the sky.
Allen, with the help of Auburn University’s National Poultry Technology Center (NPTC), installed a new system to catch and store rainwater for Allen’s four poultry houses. Two of his poultry houses were built in 2008, the others in 2014.
“It made sense when Gene Simpson from Auburn (University) told me about it,” Allen said. “Buying city water is getting more expensive, so this is just another way I can save money.”
Gutters installed on the poultry houses catch rain that’s filtered and stored in a large bladder. The water goes through a second filter system when it’s pumped into the chicken houses as needed.
The system is an advanced version of the NPTC’s prototype and can collect 100,000 gallons of water from two inches of rainfall on Allen’s four poultry houses.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the second unit like this in the United States,” said Gene Simpson of NPTC. “The first was a prototype system that we began on another farm in 2009, but it didn’t have all the bells and whistles this one has.”
Allen expects his annual $20,000 water bill could be slashed by at least 70 percent. While Allen may see an immediate impact on his bank account, he said environmental benefits can be achieved from the $130,000 water system.
“From an economics standpoint, you want to save money on the farm, but this will also help with erosion around the farm,” he said. “You’re catching the rainwater instead of it running off the house, which can be a problem, especially with new poultry houses. There’s no grass around the houses to control erosion.”
The system may not be for all farmers, Simpson said, but he encouraged those with high water rates to research the technology.
“On many farms with improved poultry housing and high water rates, water bills will be considerably higher than the propane or natural gas bill,” Simpson said. “On this particular farm, the water is about 35 to 40 percent higher than the fuel bill on an annual basis.”
Simpson said water quality and availability have always been important for farmers, but with an increasing demand for a stable food supply, farmers will need to better manage water.
“We have serious water issues across the country facing poultry growers,” Simpson said. “If we can use systems like this to help alleviate some of those problems, I think everybody wins. We’re going to see water rates in some areas go higher and higher, and we’re going to see the quality of water in some areas get worse. This gives us a chance to address both of those.”
No funding is currently available to help farmers install the collection systems, Simpson said, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Resources Conservation Service is considering future cost-share programs.
To learn more about the technology, contact Simpson at firstname.lastname@example.org or (334) 844-3514. Visit the NPTC website at http://tinyurl.com/AUNPTC n