Water quality

Water quality

Drinking enough water is important for the health of people and animals. Consequently, water is the foodstuff that is given the most and is the most crucial for livestock. Animals are largely made up of water and water acts as a solvent and means of transport for the animal. This regulates the animal's body temperature and removes harmful substances. Water is therefore crucial for good health. However, the importance of water is often underestimated: water is water, isn't it?

In a barn, a lot of attention is paid to the climate and feeding of livestock. But in fact, water is just as important for animal welfare as it is for the health of the animal. Total Water Care helps livestock farmers to guarantee the water quality for their livestock.


What is good drinking water?

Sufficient, clean, healthy and reliable drinking water are the requirements for a good water supply. After drinking water enters a farm, it is first and foremost important that every animal has enough water available at all times. Furthermore, water must be clean. Clean water is clear, colourless and odourless. It should also contain no excessive or harmful substances and be free of bacteria or other harmful microorganisms. A good mineral balance and the right pH determine how healthy the water is, among other things. Finally, it is important that all parameters are checked regularly, so that it is also reliable.

But what are the criteria to determine the quality of drinking water?


Parameters for drinking water

1. The first check

First of all, water can of course be assessed with our own senses.

  • Sediment: Do you see floating particles in the water?
  • Clear: Can you see through the water or is it cloudy?
  • Colour: Is the water visibly discoloured?
  • Odour: Does the water smell?

2. Chemical parameters

Most chemical parameters can be checked with simple tools. But what do we need to watch out for?

2.1 Hardness

Water hardness is a term that indicates how many hardness ions (especially lime and magnesium) are dissolved in the water. The hardness of water is usually expressed in German degrees of hardness or ˚dH. In the Netherlands, the hardness of tap water is between 5 and 15 ˚dH. This means that it varies greatly from one region to another. . If the hardness of water is higher than 2.7 ˚dH, lime particles begin to settle in the form of limescale. The disadvantages of limescale are:

  • Loss of optimal flow capacity
  • More cleaning work
  • More cleaning agents
  • More wear and tear of the equipment
  • Higher energy consumption

2.2 Iron

The presence of iron in water is not harmful for the health. Iron is essential because it is part of important proteins and enzymes in the body. A limited amount of iron is necessary, but too high concentrations are not recommended In addition, water containing too much iron can cause technical problems:

  • Rust sediment
  • Inactivation of medicines
  • It affects the colour, smell and taste of water
  • It can lead to blockages in the system

The iron content in animal drinking water may be between Fe 0,2- 5 mg/l.

2.3 Manganese

Like iron, manganese is naturally abundant in soil and in raw spring water. The presence of manganese in water causes black sediment in water pipes. This sediment reduces the water flow and increases bacterial presence in a pipe. In addition, manganese gives water a metallic taste which leads to reduced water intake in animals and therefore a lower performance.

2.4 Ammonium

Ammonium is naturally present in low concentrations in both groundwater and surface water. In groundwater the concentration is usually lower than 1 mg/l. However, ammonium is found in high concentrations in almost the entire coastal and polder system. In addition, ammonium from organic manure may leach directly to groundwater or can get into rainwater through dust particles from the roofs. Affects the smell of drinking water

  • Causes intestinal infection and diarrhea
  • It takes too much energy to make ammonium harmless (through the liver)
  • Ammonium is converted to nitrate, after first becoming nitrite
  • Ammonium can also be converted into the harmful anhydrous ammonia
  • Ammonium can also be converted into the harmful anhydrous ammonia

In all cases, an increased ammonium content leads to a reduction in performance

2.5 Nitrate

Nitrate is present in water. Nitrate is not a harmful substance, but it can be converted into nitrite in the body. And nitrite is toxic in high concentrations. In general, the presence of nitrate indicates pollution. Bacteria convert nitrate into nitrite, which can lead to blood pressure reduction, kidney damage and reduced resilience in animals. Excessive nitrite levels can also lead to fertility problems. Increased levels of nitrate/nitrite lead to performance problems in animals. Nitrite reduces oxygen transport in the animal.

2.6 Sulphate

Sulphate is poorly absorbed by the small intestine. The main effects of the intake of large quantities of sulphate are: dehydration, intestinal irritation and catharsis. Moreover, sulphate makes water taste bitter.

3. Microbiological parameters

Microorganisms are invisible to the naked eye but are found everywhere in the environment, including water. After ingestion of these microorganisms, they remain in the body. Microorganisms can cause diseases or damage the resistance. Harmful microorganisms can be classified into:

  • Bacteria
  • Viruses
  • Yeasts
  • Moulds


A biofilm forms when microorganisms start to grow on the deposit of minerals and organic soil particles on the walls of the water pipes. The bacteria that are present then produce something similar to a mucus layer that becomes thicker and thicker and offers protection to the bacteria. Over time, the pipes become clogged and more and more bacteria end up in the water pipes. This has a very negative effect on the quality of drinking water. Risks that exacerbate the formation of a biofilm are among others:

  • Natural contamination of the water by e.g. lime, iron and manganese;
  • Presence of gases in the water such as sulphur and methane;
  • Organic pollution of the water;
  • Poor pipework;
  • Low through-flow and high temperature;
  • Use of additives.

Once a biofilm is present, it is very difficult to remove. Even after thorough cleaning, the biofilm can return in just a few days. Consequently, it is very important that the basis of incoming water is in order. Any soiling that is not brought in, does not have to be removed.

It is a good idea to maintain a clean drinking water system with a product that both cleans and disinfects. This is to prevent the growth of biofilm. If the basis is in order, it can often be done with a very low maintenance dosage.


Consequences of poor drinking water

The consequences of poor drinking water are very big and depend on the above mentioned parameters for drinking water in each situation. Generally speaking, it especially comes down to:

  • Increase in diseases
  • Reduced resistance
  • Reduced water and feed intake and therefore worse performance