Water Sanitation: Evaluation of Products

by 5m Editor
21 November 2004, at 12:00am

By Susan Watkins, Lisa Newberry, Melony Wilson and Robert Hubbard, University of Arkansas - Cleaning water lines between flocks is an important step in providing optimum drinking water for poultry production. Even producers with excellent daily water sanitation programs can still benefit from aggressively cleaning water systems between flocks.

Water Sanitation: Evaluation of Products - By Susan Watkins, Lisa Newberry, Melony Wilson and Robert Hubbard, Center of Excellence for Poultry Science at the University of Arkansas's Avian Advice - Cleaning water lines between flocks is an important step in providing optimum drinking water for poultry production. Even producers with excellent daily water sanitation programs can still benefit from aggressively cleaning water systems between flocks.
The Author

Dr. Susan Watkins
Extension Poultry Specialist


Introduction of water additives such as electrolytes, vitamins, or vaccine stabilizers can provide food for unwanted organisms such as E. coli. In addition, the reduction of water flow in drinking systems in order to provide the right pressure for young chicks and the warm temperatures in poultry houses also creates a favorable climate for microorganisms to build a biofilm or sticky matrix.

Once established, a biofilm can be very difficult to remove and if left uncontrolled, this slime can steadily build up to the point that the daily sanitation program becomes limited in its effectiveness. Even producers who use rural or city water supplies can still develop microbial problems with poultry house water systems particularly if they inject products into their water system via medicators that pull from an open bucket.

It is possible for producers to keep lines clean and reduce bacterial growth by thoroughly sanitizing the system between flocks with either sanitizers that are different from those used in the daily sanitation program or by using the daily sanitizer at an even higher concentration. However, it is important to remember that not all cleaners or sanitizers are designed for use in water lines and equipment is sensitive to certain types or levels of chemicals. For example, using a concentrated bleach solution can actually destroy regulators and nipple drinkers. [Therefore choosing the right cleaner for water line sanitation is an important step because not only is the system not very well designed for a thorough cleaning, but also because of the need to minimize equipment damage.

Once birds are placed in the facility, a producer becomes limited on the type and concentration of daily sanitizer that the birds can and will consume. Therefore, by starting birds on very clean lines, a producer can optimize the effectiveness of the daily sanitation program and possibly minimize the cost of the program at the same time.

Cleaner / Sanitizer Study

Different water line cleaners and sanitizers were evaluated at the University of Arkansas Poultry Research Farm. A very high level of the bacteria, Pseudomonas, was seeded into miniature water line systems (four feet long) that were equipped with six nipple drinkers, a regulator and stem pipes. By using the miniature lines, it was possible to simulate conditions that might be encountered on a typical poultry farm, but at the same time use the different cleaners in three different water lines. Pseudomonas was chosen because it is commonly found in poultry houses and because of its ability to thrive in water systems.

The Pseudomonas mixture was allowed to settle into the lines for approximately four days so that the organism would become well established in the water system, creating a worse case scenario of contamination in a relatively clean water line system. After four days, a sample of water was taken from each line to determine the number of Pseudomonas organisms present. The products tested were mixed with distilled deionized water, flushed into the line systems where they remained 24 hours. After 24 hours, another sample of water from the line was taken and cultured to determine the number of Pseudomonas organisms that survived. The treatments evaluated are outlined in Table 11.

Test Results

All products tested effectively removed Pseudomonas from the water lines (Table 2). Flushing the lines with water (the control) did not remove the bacteria. However, this was not a high-pressure flush, which can be very helpful in removing any buildup in the lines. These results show the durability of bacteria such as Pseudomonas and why water lines should be cleaned.

However, using the 12.5% bleach solution at a 1% rate is risky since strong bleach solutions can have a detrimental effect on equipment. In fact, it is always best to check with equipment suppliers for their recommendation of products to use for line cleaning. The Proxyclean product was used at a rate of 3%. If products must be added via medicators, this strength of solution can be achieved only by having an injector pump with a variable setting or by pumping the solution straight from the container with two in-line medicators. Most Proxyclean use has been at a rate of 1% or pumping the product straight from the container. This adds one ounce of concentrated product to every gallon of water. The Agri Zone product can also be used at a more concentrated rate. It can be pumped straight from the medicator container and added at a rate of one ounce per gallon of water.


The bottom line is that water systems can be successfully cleaned between flocks and this thorough cleaning can slow or eliminate the development of bio-films. There is one important point to remember about this project. These lines were fairly new and therefore had little opportunity for biofilms and sediment to become built-up in the systems. This allowed the cleaners to have maximum exposure to the bacteria and led to excellent results.

Systems that have not been cleaned in several months or have no daily sanitation program may not be as easy to clean and may require more than one clean and flush procedure to eliminate bacteria, algae and bio-films. If lines are very dirty or a water tests indicate high levels of bacteria (greater than 100,000 colony forming units/ml) at the end of the line, then a producer should use a very aggressive cleaning strategy between flocks. Cleaning should then be combined with a very thorough flush of the system to remove the killed bacteria and algae. Dead algae can release toxins that could be harmful to the birds so it is very important to flush the system thoroughly after cleaning. Combining the thorough flush with a good daily sanitation program can help reduce the threat that bacteria, algae, viruses and mold exert on poultry performance.

Table 1. Description of Treatments Evaluated

Table 2. Results of Cleaning Water Lines With Different Products

1Colony Forming Units/milliliter

Source: Avian Advice - Spring 2004 - Volume 6, Number 1