The June and August issues of Pork address several aspects of water usage and water quality in pork production. During the preparation of these articles, pork industry consultant Mike Brumm, Brumm Swine Consultancy, Mankato, Minn., was asked to comment on use and conservation of water on hog farms. His response gives important perspective on water use on hog operations.

Question: Will water be a limiting factor to pork production in the future?

Brumm: Lets do some math to put the question in perspective. Lets use some of the Canadian data that suggest 1.8 gallons per pig per day as an estimate of total water usage in a finishing barn.

Then, let’s consider a 2,400 double wide finishing barn. Total water usage is estimated to be: 2400 spaces x 365 days x 1.8 gallon per day = 1,576,800 gal as a maximum number. This is high when you consider that a finishing barn has pits that are 8 feet deep and we typically get 12 months storage with cup drinkers or wet/dry feeders. The pit volume at 7' of manure depth for a 100 x 196 barn becomes 137,200 cubic feet or 1,026,256 gallon.

For ease of math, let’s use 1 million total gallons per year. This sounds like a lot of water and in public hearings with communities will cause a stir. Some observers have even suggested that water usage this large will deplete local water tables and has been an argument against facilities in local zoning hearings.

To pork production’s use of water into perspective, Brumm calculates water usage in a couple other areas. His examples look at crop irrigation and ethanol production.

Q: How does water usage in swine production compare to crop irrigation or ethanol production?

Brumm: There are 27,154 gallons per acre inch of water, a commonly used term in irrigation.

Lets work with 10 acre inches of water, a common irrigation rate in much of Nebraska for irrigated corn and soybeans. 10 acre inches equals 271,540 gallons. This suggests that a double wide finishing barn will use the equivalent of the water used to irrigate 4 acres of corn - not a very big number when put in that perspective.

For another perspective, let’s consider ethanol production. Current estimates are between 3.1 gallons and 4.2 gallons of water usage at ethanol plants for each gallon of ethanol produced. This means a 50 million gallon ethanol plant will use somewhere between 155 and 210 million gallons of water. This suggests each 50 million gallon ethanol plant uses the equivalent of 150-200 double-wide finishing barns.

Editors note: See the September issue of Pork for ‘Water Conservation: Inside and Out.’