Getting your water management in order

These are hard times for growers. The current market means growers need to adjust quickly. Dutch growers now face an additional problem with new regulations imposing stricter environmental targets.  This has made it vital for growers in the Netherlands to get their water management in order, for instance, by limiting the disposal of drain water and rainwater.   This article briefly explains what the new legislation means for Dutch growers.   We also explain how HortiMaX can help growers worldwide optimise their water management.

New environmental targets
The Dutch government and horticultural industry set new targets to reduce nitrogen and phosphate levels in waste water at a meeting of the Platform Duurzame Glastuinbouw (sustainable greenhouse horticulture platform). These targets were established in a new Act, formerly the 'Agricultural Activities Decree', which came into effect on 1 January. The concentrations of pesticides found in surface water are also still too high. The horticultural sector faces a huge challenge if it is to meet the set targets.

Water management under control
The new regulations obliges every nursery in the Netherlands to meet strict water management standards. Some growers are even subject to additional requirements set by regional authorities or water boards. Enforcing new standards, however, also has a positive side for growers: recycling water leads to considerable savings in both water and nutrients. In addition to serving a social purpose (there is no substitute for water), recycling water allows growers to cut their water bills.

In other countries, the need for water recycling is even more pressing. Michael Suurmond, Product Manager for Water and Nutrition at HortiMaX had the following to say on the subject: 'At HortiMaX, we are committed to developing sustainable growing systems. Since we use water sparingly in the Netherlands, it is not yet a scarce commodity. In many countries, however, water shortages are a serious problem. Growers can minimise water wastage by using sustainable growing systems.’

Water purification methods
Wageningen UR (WUR) Greenhouse Horticulture, a prominent Dutch research institute, recently tested various water purification methods to find new ways of reducing the levels of pesticides in discharge water. Of the 30 purification methods reviewed, four technologies were selected that could be used in greenhouse nurseries in the near future. The research institute is currently testing these technologies with the aim of selecting one or more for application in the sector in 2013.  

Disposing of drain water
The new Environmental Targets Act obliges Dutch nurseries to remove or break down harmful substances in waste water.  Growers with drip irrigation systems are also required to collect and recycle their drain water (known as 'water recirculation' in horticulture).  To help growers meet the new targets, HortiMaX has developed an innovative new system: the HortiMaX Vitalite with peroxide technology. The system uses low pressure UV light to activate hydrogen peroxide, effectively breaking down the pesticides in the water so it is suitable for reuse. WUR Greenhouse Horticulture is currently testing the effectiveness of this system and will soon publish the results.

Diversity in solutions
For years, HortiMaX has been helping growers meet increasingly demanding regulations with solutions in low pressure UV disinfection and expertise in water treatment in general. By combining the HortiMaX VitaLite and HortiMaX FertiMiX (a fertiliser mixer), HortiMaX can meet a wide range of water recirculation needs.  The following illustration shows the most the common recirculation solutions:

Conventional recirculation system
In additional to the conventional recirculation system, HortiMaX offers a comprehensive range of innovative solutions in this area.  Since the new Act also applies to open field cultivation, the FertiMiX and VitaLite are available in a more basic configuration.   

Disposing of rainwater outside the greenhouse
The new Act includes rules on how growers may dispose of rainwater. HortiMaX process computers allow you to control every aspect of your water management.  If a collection facility for rainwater is present, growers may only dispose of rainwater using an overflow facility. Growers must also measure and record the amount of water disposed.

Required record keeping
The new Act requires growers to keep monthly records of the following data:

  • The amount of irrigation water applied in m3.
  • The amount of drain water recycled in m3 (in soil cultivation under glass).
  • The amount of drain water disposed in m3.

Process computers, such as our HortiMaX CX500 and HortiMaX MultiMa, include settings to register this data.  Our HortiMaX Synopta software, in turn, allows you to view and report the required data.  

Regular samples
In addition to keeping records, growers must take regular samples to measure the levels of nitrogen, nitrate and other substances (depending on the growing system used) in the discharge water. These chemical analyses are performed by specialised companies.

Reliable sensors and water meters are essential to accurately monitor the various water flows and levels of nutrients they contain.  This makes proper sensor maintenance a must for every grower.  A HortiMaX maintenance contract entitles you to extensive support and guarantees your system will be kept in top condition.

More information
For more information on the new regulations or what our solutions can mean for you, please contact Michiel Suurmond, Product Manager for Water and Nutrition on +31(0)15 3620 300 , or e-mail him at You can also send your questions to

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