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operations, if not properly managed, can discharge a wide
range of contaminants, including those from manure, fertilizers,
pesticides, and eroded soil particles. The most worrisome
contaminants are ammonia, nutrients, pathogens, and sediments.
Ammonia is toxic to fish, while nutrients can impair water
quality, as in the Serpentine and Nikomekl rivers and the
Abbotsford aquifer. Manure is a significant source of nitrogen,
phosphorus, biochemical oxygen demand, and waterborne diseases.
Proper management is required to avoid adverse effects to
water supplies and human health.
sound use of manure from farms is a constant challenge in
the agricultural industry, and is not unique to British
Columbia. In some parts of the Fraser Valley, nutrients
from manure, combined with inorganic fertilizer use, exceed
the capacity of local lands to assimilate the available
nutrients. In some areas, the excess is between 300 and
400 kilograms of nitrogen per cropped hectare. When too
much manure and chemical fertilizer are spread onto fields
for crop enhancement, excess nitrogen leaches into ground water
streams. Timing of manure spreading and other management practices
can affect the severity of the impact. If spread in the late
fall and early winter, when the plants' nutritional needs
are the lowest, winter precipitation can carry ammonia, pathogens,
and oxygen-demanding materials into waterbodies.
can contaminate waterbodies by several routes, including spillage,
improper storage, application too near or into ditches and streams,
leaching from soils, or washed away in runoff. About $22 million
per year is spent on application of 120 different types of pesticides
in British Columbia. The area of provincial agricultural cropland
treated with pesticides increased from about 425,000 hectares
in 1971 to about 550,000 hectares in 1986 - about a 30% increase.
On Crown land, the use of pesticides has stabilized or decreased
in the last few years, suggesting that the promotion of integrated
pest management in British Columbia since the 1980's may be paying
little information about the degree of pesticide contamination
of water in the province. However, an assessment of the Lower
Mainland's Abbotsford-Sumas aquifer, which provides drinking water
to nearly 100,000 people, found only traces of 16 pesticides in
the aquifer. Some of the pesticides detected are either no longer
used or their use is restricted. The levels of pesticide were
well below current drinking water guidelines and do not pose an
imminent threat to human health. A comprehensive inter-ministry
ground water quality assessment (Fraser Valley Groundwater Monitoring
Project) conducted in 1993/94 indicated ground water quality in
the Fraser Valley was generally good, except for elevated concentrations
of nitrate-nitrogen in the Abbotsford, Hopington, and Brookswood
in the following sections is taken from the document Watershed
Stewardship: A Guide for Agriculture and should be referred
to for further information. For details applicable to specific
agricultural sectors refer to the following Ministry
of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries publications:
Guidelines for Beef Producers
Guidelines for Berry Producers
Guidelines for Dairy Producers
Guidelines for Field Vegetable Producers
Guidelines for Greenhouse Growers
Guidelines for Horse Owners
Guidelines for Mushroom Producers
Guidelines for Nursery and Turf Producers
Guidelines for Tree Fruit and Grape Producers
Proper site planning can help prevent or reverse damage to fish
and wildlife habitat and water quality. It can also make farming
your land more financially and personally rewarding.
other agricultural operations should have a management plan to
help identify issues before they become problems. A well thought
out plan can also help secure financing from financial institutions
that are beginning to request environmental assessments to accompany
plan should document information about the physical attributes
of the farm including native vegetation, wetlands, watercourses
and other natural habitats. The plan should also include information
about the topography of the land, soil types, lands marginal for
farming and climatic conditions. This information can be used
to evaluate prime production areas, identify natural areas to
remain and those requiring remediation. The site plan will also
be useful when considering improvements to existing facilities,
or new buildings and storage areas.
detail on preparing a farm plan refer to Watershed
Stewardship: A Guide for Agriculture.
pond on the left collects runoff from a dairy farm. The runoff
is further treated in the constructed wetland on the right before
patterns, livestock numbers and distribution, and manure
management all have implications for soils, water quality
and fish and wildlife habitat. Small changes in your operation
can have major benefits for your farm, for streams and wetlands
and for others downstream from you in the watershed.
managing livestock handling and feeding areas, be sure all
provisions of the Code
of Agricultural Practice For Waste Management
|are met. Provide off-stream livestock waterers
whenever possible. Where access to natural watercourses is
needed, it should be restricted to locations where developed
access has been established.
livestock access to a natural watercourse
The proper management of waste products prevents pollution of
water, soil and air. Producers are responsible for ensuring that
the environment is protected from contamination by agricultural
of manure can help increase crop productivity but when improperly
applied, applied in excess of crop uptake or improperly stored
can be very damaging to the environment. Human health risks are
a concern because of pathogens and nutrients (nitrates) which
can contaminate drinking water. Water which is contaminated will
also be unpalatable to livestock. Excess nutrients can also have
an impact on water quality and fish habitat, causing excess algal
and plant growth, and decreasing dissolved oxygen levels. Manure
runoff also contains high levels of ammonia which is toxic to
The key to
good manure management is a nutrient management plan which addresses
manure storage facilities to prevent escape of manure or manure
leachate to surface and ground water;
the capacity is large enough to store manure until it can be
effectively used as fertilizer;
capacity for storing contaminated runoff from livestock handling
areas, as well as rainfall and milking center wastes if needed;
manure storage areas to maximize capacity — you won't
need such a large facility if it is not collecting rainwater;
storage areas well back from watercourses and water supplies
— 30 m minimum from any source of domestic water and 15
m minimum from any watercourse or lake. Greater distances are
- if storing
liquid manure, secondary containment (such as a berm) is suggested
for storage facilities which are near a watercourse or lake.
must be planned and timed so that:
- the amount
and timing of nutrient applications match soil conditions and
optimize crop uptake;
is no runoff or excessive leaching to any body of water. Avoid
applications during seasons of intense rainfall and do not apply
manure to snow, frozen ground or saturated soils;
should not be applied within the 15 m riparian leave area or
any permanently wetted waterbody.
If the amount
of nutrients in the manure generated on your farm exceeds what
you can appropriately use as a fertilizer:
the carefully balanced feeds which enhance nutrient uptake by
livestock and reduce the nutrient levels in the manure;
for appropriate off-farm disposal (i.e., composting and selling
or finding another user) of any remaining excesses.
including milking parlor wastes, woodwaste, dead animals and pesticides
must also be handled in a manner that minimizes the impact on
the environment. Refer to the Watershed
Stewardship: A Guide for Agriculture for more information.
storage area at a dairy farm
Soil Management and Conservation
soil is fundamental to productive agriculture. Soils develop slowly,
but can be easily harmed by human activity, causing decreased
crop production, higher management costs and impacts on the aquatic
environment. Many steps taken to protect soils can also benefit
water quality and fish habitat.
Pesticides can provide benefits to producers and consumers alike,
but can also have negative effects if they enter ground water or
surface waterways. Many producers have adopted sophisticated integrated
pest management (IPM) techniques which help reduce the overall
use of pesticides while maintaining farm profitabilitiy.
pest management uses a combination of the following methods to
(e.g., crop rotation which reduces impacts from crop-specific
pests, and companion crops which can be used to out-compete
weeds between crop rows);
(e.g., stick traps);
(e.g., pheromones, biocides); and
(e.g., predator insects).
Stewardship: A Guide for Agriculture. 1997. The Stewardship
Series. Province of British Columbia and Department of Fisheries
Waste Control Regulation.
Waste and the Environment. University of Georgia College of
Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Measures for Agricultural Sources. US Environmental Protection
impacts on water quality in Alberta. Alberta Agriculture,
Food and Rural Development.
National Strategy for Animal Feeding Operations. US Department
of Agriculture and US Environmental Protection Agency.
and the Environment. National Resources Conservation Service,
US Department of Agriculture.
Agriculture Library. Water Quality Information Center. Agricultural
Research Service, US Department of Agriculture.
and Fish: Alberta Riparian Habitat Management Program.