The answer to “How Now A Brown Cow?” can produce water clean enough for drinking is about to be answered on a 2,500-cow 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 the solids from the liquids, the system can generate 8,000-gallons of nitrogen and potassium-rich concentrate daily, which is suitable 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 ten feet deep to our watershed.”
Once Regenis installs the system this fall, they will operate it through the end of the grant period in June 2019, closely monitoring inputs and outputs. Meanwhile, the Public Utility District No. 1 of Whatcom County is working with the State Department of Ecology among others on the permitting process 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.
The results from this project will be shared with the dairy industry to demonstrate system performance and with the WSCC as part of its mission to “implement, test and analyze innovative and emerging technologies in manure management to help reduce potential environmental impacts to soil, water or air.”
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.”
The project was born of independent discussions Regenis had with their partners over several months, even before the grant was conceived. Regenis, Vice President, Bryan Van Loo said, “This grant opportunity came along at the perfect time to demonstrate our technology, and we want to recognize the Conservation Commission for seeing this as a multifaceted opportunity to meet several of their objectives.”
“Coldstream had been searching for ways to reduce the volume of manure to be stored and applied to their fields, and the PUD is seeking new sources of water and resource protection. Joining them with local farmers who want to reduce their carbon footprint from fossil-derived fertilizers while allowing them to support the local agricultural industry with dollars they would have spent abroad makes this a fully rounded circle of sustainability.”
“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 August 1st in the United States and Canada. Upon completion of the installation at Coldstream Farms this fall, onsite tours will be conducted.