In the UK, we tend to assume that our wet and mild climate means that we’ve always got plenty of water available, not only for drinking and bathing, but also for manufacturing and farming too. However, last year’s prolonged heatwave and the return of soaring temperatures this summer tell a different story: heavy water users like farms and manufacturing sites need to build their resilience to the threat of water shortages, rising water costs and environmental limits on abstraction. The way to do that is with a water storage lagoon.
In this blog, we’ll discuss the reasons why water storage lagoons are increasingly being installed for both irrigation and business-critical processing requirements, and outline the lining requirements for such facilities, highlighting the benefits of EPDM lining membranes, such as the GeoGard EPDM system from Firestone.
Why Do You Need a Water Storage Lagoon?
The water industry was deregulated for commercial customers in England and Wales in April 2017, following the example of Scotland where deregulation had already benefitted commercial organisations shopping around for financial savings and a better service. But with competition comes the potential for rising costs and investment in water networks which has been reflected in water bills. Tariffs are usually linked to consumption levels so, without sufficient stored water as resilience, low rainfall can result in much higher bills if usage limits are exceeded due to over reliance on the mains supply.
Against this backdrop, the issue of warmer summers and lower levels of summer rainfall looks set to continue due to climate change. For farmers, this combination of hotter weather and lower rainfall levels creates a dual problem: the ground is drier so crops need increased amounts of irrigation and the air is warmer so the positive impact of irrigating the crops is short-lived as the moisture rapidly evaporates. This becomes a vicious circle where we see demand rising just as the supply network – either through the mains or natural abstraction – is most under pressure.
And yet, across the course of a year, we see plenty of rain. Indeed, climate change analysts are predicting wetter winters, so the natural solution is to store water during wetter periods of the year to aid resilience during hot, dry periods. Creating a water storage lagoon not only enables farms and processing plants to capture rainfall for use at drier times of year, but also ensures that they can benefit from the full capacity of their Environment Agency abstraction licence all year round. Using their maximum allocation in this way safeguards against the allocation being reduced (on the basis that the user doesn’t need it) and prevents the need to top up from the mains.
It’s a strategy that’s been widely used for decades across Europe, Australia and the USA where Firestone’s GeoGard EPDM lining membrane has be used in a wide variety of water storage facilitates and irrigation canals, many of which are still in service decades after they were built. So why is GeoGard EPDM so ideal for water storage installations, which are becoming increasingly common here in the UK too?
The Benefits of EPDM Linings for Water Storage Facilities
In some areas of the UK a lining may not be essential, however, if the location is in an area with porous soil conditions it is vital to have a robust lining membrane to prevent the stored water from seeping into the ground. The soil conditions in many of our fruit and salad growing regions is porous and it is these crops that are most vulnerable to perishing without sufficient rainfall or irrigation.
The chosen membrane needs to be flexible enough to follow the contours of the ground and must retain its elasticity throughout the design life of the water storage facility to prevent brittleness and cracking, which could cause the lining to be compromised. Firestone’s GeoGard EPDM membrane retains its flexibility throughout its service life down to temperatures as low as -450C, with the capacity to be elongated by over 300% in all directions and return to its initial form afterwards. This high elasticity allows Firestone GeoGard EPDM to absorb substrate movements without its physical properties being affected.
The chosen membrane should also be robust enough to resist puncturing both during the installation process and following completion of the water storage facility and Firestone’s GeoGard EPDM can deliver high levels of puncture resistance thanks to its flexibility and elasticity.
The system used must also offer excellent U/V resistance, as water storage lagoons are subjected to high levels of U/V exposure, especially during drier periods.
Resistance to Hydrostatic Pressure
For deeper lagoons, resistance to hydrostatic pressure is also vital. Firestone’s GeoGard EPDM membrane delivers on both of these criteria too.
The large format of Firestone’s GeoGard EPDM membrane means that the number of seams can be reduced, limiting the areas where the lining is most vulnerable to integrity issues. The result is a hardwearing lining solution that will ensure water stored is not lost to leaks.
Finally, specifiers should also note that the lining they choose must also address their environmental responsibility. Water used for irrigation purposes or released into natural water courses must not contain any solvents and the Firestone GeoGard EPDM system is plasticiser-free, ensuring water stored in a facility constructed using the lining is environmentally safe.
Water is fundamental to life for all living things and we depend on it as a resource for growing everything we eat and making everything we use. Ensuring that we have the right amount of water where and when we need is becoming an increasing priority and water storage lagoons lined with EPDM membranes are a practical, resilient and long-lasting solution.