Disinfecting Water with Chlorine Dioxide

By Dr. Andrew McKay

Water, why care?

Farm animals consume large quantities of water. They often drink twice as much as they eat, and if they aren’t drinking, they won’t be eating. Ensuring they have access to high quality drinking water is critical to their health and productivity.

The key to water quality is the prevention of microbiological contamination. Water can be a vector for many pathogens onto the farm and into the animals. Providing clean water to production animals will help reduce their pathogen load which is crucial as the need for a move away from antimicrobial use becomes more important.

Different pig and poultry farms obtain their water from different sources – town (mains) water, underground (bore) water, surface (dam, river) water and rainwater. The different sources contain varying degrees of pathogens with town water being the cleanest and surface water usually the dirtiest given its open to bird droppings and water run-off contaminants. Even clean town water can become contaminated if it’s stored in a tank as it remains stagnant for a period of time allowing pathogens to multiply before its consumed. This is especially true in warm environments.

Biofilm microbes are tiny but many

Farm water can also become contaminated by flowing through waterlines that contain biofilm.

What is biofilm?

Biofilm is a slimy layer of bacteria and other microorganisms that live and adhere to the inside surface of waterlines.

Biofilm inside a pipe on a farm | Zamira Australia
Biofilm

Biofilm is harmful because:

  • It introduces pathogens and toxic substances into the water (parts of the biofilm break off as water passes)
  • Medication, vaccines and other supplements delivered through the water can get caught in the biofilm and not reach the animals at the correct dose.
  • The wrong animals can receive medication and vaccines when eventually released from the biofilm
  • Microorganisms in the biofilm can become resistant to antibiotics which may lead to antibiotic resistance in the animals
  • It can cause blocked waterlines

There are a number of methods available for farmers to disinfect the water entering their farms. It is important that the treatment involves removing the biofilm in the waterlines as well disinfecting the water within those lines. Otherwise the water will get contaminated by the biofilm after treatment.

Clean water starts with you

A very effective way to disinfect water and remove biofilm is through the use of chlorine dioxide.

What is Chlorine Dioxide?

The use of Chlorine Dioxide is becoming popular for water sanitation in the poultry and pig industries as it’s a fast acting, broad spectrum, safe biocide. It acts only by oxidation and does not combine with organic compounds to form environmentally hazardous by-products. Chlorine dioxide is completely different to Chlorine, in terms of mode of action and efficacy. Table 1 highlights the differences between Chlorine Dioxide, Chlorine and other products used for water disinfection.

Characteristics of Chlorine Dioxide

Chlorine dioxide is effective over a broad pH range (pH 4-10) and not affected by water hardness which allows good efficacy in all water sources. It is non-corrosive therefore providing a long-term water disinfection solution for use on farms and in processing plants.

Chlorine dioxide is an odourless gas so does not adversely affect the taste or smell of the water. In fact, if used to treat poor quality water, it can improve its taste and smell as it kills all the pathogens within the water.

When compared with other oxidising biocides, Chlorine Dioxide has a significantly lower oxidation strength, but greater oxidation capacity. This means that it reacts with fewer compounds, such as organic material and ammonia, yet is strong enough to kill bacteria, viruses, spores, fungi and other microbiological pathogens.

This process of “selective oxidation” allows the Chlorine Dioxide biocide to be targeted where it is needed most, disinfecting areas quickly at low dose rates, leading to greater cost efficiencies.

The differences between Chlorine Dioxide, Chlorine and other products used for water disinfection | Zamira Australia

Every drop counts

How to use Chlorine Dioxide

When disinfecting water with chlorine dioxide, it is important to find an appropriate delivery method. This has to be a convenient, easy to install, accurate dosing system to ensure the correct amount of chlorine dioxide is being added to the waterline.

To ensure all the pathogens along the entire length of the waterline are being killed it is important to have residual chlorine dioxide in the water at the end of the line. It is important to test the water at the end of the line to ensure there is enough of a residual to have the full disinfection effect on the water. This can be achieved using chlorine dioxide digital test equipment or simply by using chlorine dioxide test strips

Once a residual chlorine dioxide level is recorded at the end of the waterline you can be sure the entire water system is being disinfected. This will help reduce the pathogen load on the livestock which will ultimately help produce healthier animals.


Zamira is an Australian animal health company with a mission to improve the health, wellbeing and productivity of animals across the world. Read more about us here.


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