As broiler growers move further away from using antibiotics, the importance of keeping a clean water system will continue to grow.

Dr. Susan Watkins, a professor and extension specialist at the University of Arkansas, said keeping a clean water supply is a major contributor to having a healthy, successful flock. Watkins, who has been studying and speaking on the importance of clean water for years, explained how growers can keep their water supply clean at the Midwest Poultry Federation Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota, on March 16.

Watkins said the keys to keeping a clean water supply are:

  • Knowing the water supply’s challenges and addressing them properly. An inadequate cleaning is a waste of time and effort
  • Using downtime effectively and using that time to clean water systems
  • Using a daily water sanitizer best suited for the operation that is compatible with water, easy to use, ease to monitor and cost effective for the farm
  • Establishing a program to monitor and verify water quality

To help farmers decide which water cleaning program is best for their farm, Watkins offered up a few promising methods and new products as well as tips on how best to use them.

Chlorine for water sanitation

Watkins said chlorine is a good daily water sanitizer, but it is not perfect. The halogen is available in a variety of forms and is an effective water sanitizer, however its effectiveness is affected by numerous factors such as the pH level of the water, the temperature of the water, the cleanliness of the water, the amount of time the chlorine is present in the water, and the age and storage condition of the chlorine product.

While it’s an effective antimicrobial, it does not remove all harmful microbes in the water supply. She said chlorine solutions work best in pH 4 to 7. The acidic form of chlorine, which exists in lower pH water, is a better sanitizer overall. As chlorine reacts with organic compounds in the water system, it can give off strong odors of chlorine. Watkins said the smell goes away as the chlorine sanitizes the water. Chlorine is not the best choice for areas where chloride levels are already high.

Watkins recommended Green Klean Bleach Crystals, a product from Illinois-based GK Green Kleen. The product is dry, so it lasts longer and is easier to transport. It has been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for use in drinking water. She said the product is very similar to liquid bleach when used for water sanitation.

Alternatives to chlorine

Watkins said there are a few options other than using chlorine to sanitize water: hydrogen peroxide and a newer product that uses ultraviolet light.

Hydrogen peroxide can be a good alternative to chlorine and works especially well for sanitizing pond or river water. Like chlorine, hydrogen peroxide can be dangerous to store, and its effectiveness declines over time. Watkins said stabilized products like Texas-based Proxy-Clean's products last longer and offer greater value for the price.

Watkins said a newer product, the Silver Bullet, from Colorado-based Silver Bullet Water Treatment L.L.C., is promising. She said the product uses ultraviolet light and continuously infuses electrolyzed air into the water supply -- what the company calls an advanced oxidation process to leave a small amount of hydrogen peroxide in the water.

“I love this concept because you can just continuously treat water and not overtreat it,” Watkins said.

Overall, Watkins said she’s cautiously optimistic about the Silver Bullet’s potential as an alternative solution. In some farms, it’s worked perfectly; in others, it hasn’t. Watkins said environmental factors like mold can reduce the effectiveness of the Silver Bullet – and other sanitizers – and because the product does not leave behind a residual amount of an active compound, the only way to gauge its success is microbial monitoring before and after use. She recommended using the diffuser in a holding tank or wellhead rather than with flowing water.

Cleaning fundamentals

Along with picking the right product, Watkins offered some basic tips for cleaning out the water lines of broiler production operations.