In real estate, it’s all about location, location, location. For dugout water quality, it’s all about aeration, aeration, aeration, says Brandon Leask, agricultural water engineer with Alberta Agriculture in Red Deer.
Speaking to Clearwater County’s West County ag tour, Leask encouraged his audience to think of dugouts as independent ecosystems.
“Any time you’re adding something to a dugout, you’re adding nutrients, unless you harvest it out,” he said. That includes nutrients such as run-off from manure or material that is deliberately added, such as grass carp.
Leask said aeration is the key to preventing those nutrients from becoming food for dugout-choking plants and algae.
“Aeration puts little bubbles of oxygen into the water,” he said. “That oxygen bonds with the phosphorus and nitrogen in the water, and settles it out. This makes the phosphorus and nitrogen unavailable to algae and weeds.”
Aeration helps cycle water, eliminating a warm layer on top and a cool layer on the bottom of the dugout, creating a more consistent mid-range temperature, reducing algae growth and helping maintain healthy fish populations.
Leask said that snow clearing on dugouts is important. Light cannot penetrate a thick layer of snow, so plants die and decompose, robbing the water of oxygen needed for fish.
Leask said the Growing Forward water management program is still open and applications will be accepted until March 15, 2013.
“There is still money available and we need to get it out the door,” he said. The program helps to fund dugouts, new wells, new aeration systems, new spring developments and the decommissioning of old well pits and wells. The program is similar to previous programs before, except it requires pre-approval.
Producers who have been through the program before can still apply for a second project, said Leask. Anyone interested in the program can request help from their county office or by calling 310-FARM.