Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) have turned cow dung into water. Yes, poo.
By using a process called the McLanahan Nutrient Separation System, researchers managed to transform manure into water for livestock or waste disposal.
“If you have 1,000 cows on your operation, they produce about 10-million gallons of manure a year,” MSU scientist Steve Safferman said in a press release. “About 90 per cent of the manure is water, but it contains large amounts of nutrients, carbon and pathogens that can have an environmental impact if not properly managed.”
Statistics Canada reports that the average Albertan farm has 141 cows. Different cows produce different amounts of manure per day, with dairy cows producing the most at 62 kilograms and bulls producing 42 kilograms.
If Albertan farmers use the McLanahan system to convert the poo to water, they could generate up to two-and- a-half million litres of water each year.
The United States’ Environmental Protection Agency says that improperly managed manure affects the environment and pollutes drinking water.
While the system is not yet commercially available, it does have practical applications for farming regions that suffer from summer droughts.
“Here in Michigan, we have a tendency to take water for granted,” Safferman said. “But out west, for example, where drought remains an issue, the accessibility of clean water could make the difference between a farm remaining viable or going out of business.”