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- Author or Editor: Paul Gottlieb x
Management of agricultural irrigation water is extremely important as fresh water resources are being depleted on a global scale. In anticipation of regulatory restrictions, several greenhouse and nursery operations in New Jersey have implemented systems that disinfect and recycle their irrigation water. This study compared the disinfection methods at two greenhouses and three container nurseries, focusing on the qualitative and quantitative benefits of using chlorine gas, ultraviolet light, ozone, and copper for water disinfection. The data were collected during on-site visits where the growers were interviewed on camera. A cost analysis was performed, but the most efficient disinfection technique could not be determined due to the variability between businesses and various unquantifiable benefits of proactive water management recycling, such as improved plant health, decreased fungicide and fertilizer use, a cleaner operation, reduced runoff, reduced pressure on aquifers, and increased customer satisfaction. The investment and maintenance costs per hectare and 1000 L were calculated, which can be useful reference tools for growers. The net present value (NPV) of each disinfection system was calculated to analyze the profitability of the investments. All three container nurseries had positive NPV values and profitable investments, which improved with cost sharing from the National Resource Conservation Service. This information will be useful in the future as growers throughout the state, and country, may be required to deal with the stricter regulation of their irrigation runoff.
Water availability, quality, and management, particularly under climate change constraints and fierce competition for water resources, are challenging the sustainability of intensively irrigated nursery crops. We created an online tool to estimate costs and benefits of a water recycling investment at a commercial nursery, given data on the operation input by the user. The online tool returns a “regulatory risk score” based on the user’s drought and pollution risk. Then, using a partial budget approach, it returns net present value of the investment, upfront capital cost, and expected change in annual cash flow. The present article seeks to cross-validate this computer model with results reported in the case study literature. We aggregated data on 38 nurseries and greenhouses profiled in five published studies into a meta study dataset. These data validated the computer tool’s assumptions about the relationship of operation size to total capital cost. Separate simulations on the profitability effects of varying public water rates and price premia due to green marketing corroborated the findings of earlier studies. A major finding of the simulation analysis not previously emphasized in the literature is that capital cost and profit vary significantly with the precise method that is used to size the recapture pond. A “minimalist” approach to this decision is likely to be the most cost-effective, but growers should also keep stormwater runoff and other issues of environmental best practices in mind.