The importance of clean water: Continuous water disinfection on the poultry farm

If dirty water is put in a clean cup, is the cup still clean? Likewise, if untreated, pathogen-filled water is run through newly cleaned water lines, are the water lines still clean?

The simple answer: no.

“After terminal water line disinfection, the next step in a water treatment program is continuous water disinfection during the life of the flock,” said Neogen poultry expert Lindsay Good. “Not only will a continuous water disinfection program limit buildup growth within the water lines, but it will also protect the birds from harmful pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi.”

The benefits of continuous water disinfection include:

  • Reduced pathogenic bacteria introduced into the gastrointestinal tract
  • Improved feed conversion
  • Reduced incidence of disease
  • Reduced medication usage
  • Reduced disease transmission throughout the house due to open drinker systems

“Chemistry options for continuous water disinfection include chlorine bleach and chlorine dioxide, among many others,” said Good. “While the two may sound the same, chlorine dioxide and chlorine bleach are two different molecules.”

In the water, chlorine’s activity relies on a specific environment, temperature, pH and water hardness range. If any of those factors are outside of the ideal range, chlorine bleach does not work as a disinfectant. However, chlorine dioxide is much more forgiving in terms of water environment. As a molecule, chlorine dioxide is less dependent on water quality and can work in a variety of pH, temperature, and water hardness ranges. Chlorine dioxide has been proven effective against bacteria, viruses, spores, yeasts, molds and other pathogens, and has been proven to penetrate the biofilm layer that builds up on the inside of the pipes, something that chlorine bleach cannot do.

“Active chlorine dioxide is generated at the farm by combining a stabilized chlorine dioxide product with an acid activator,” said Good. “The simplest and safest way to mix these two chemicals is through a metering pump system with an activation chamber.”

One metering pump is required for each chemical and is set to pump a prescribed amount of the chemical into an activation chamber based on the water consumption rate of the birds in the house. Once inside the activation chamber, the two chemicals mix, activating the chlorine dioxide, which is then injected directly into the water line flowing into the house. After the pumps are set up and calibrated, the user must only replace the product when empty. This setup creates a system that creates chlorine dioxide on demand based on the birds’ water consumption, effectively reducing pathogen loads within the water, and is enclosed, promoting the safety of the user at the farm.

After you spend the time and effort to clean the water lines, a follow-up program ensures that the water is disinfected, creating water that is safe, clean and meets the needs of the flock. As mentioned before, it makes no sense to put dirty water in a clean cup.

This post is part of our series on water lines in the poultry house. See the rest of the articles here.

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