Can Earthworms Solve the Water Scarcity Problem?

  • 11.09.2022
  • Independent

Many farms, especially dairy farms, struggle with how to dispose of polluted wastewater. The hundreds of millions of gallons of water farms use gets contaminated with animal waste, artificial fertilizers, and harmful chemicals, which frequently percolate down to the groundwater that people could one day drink.

Some regenerative ag operations are finding a nifty solution to this problem. They are discovering that earthworms, those ubiquitous dirt-eaters, are also able to clean water. They have long been known as nature’s way of enriching soil, but only recently has it been found that they can also cleanse wastewater.

BioFiltro, an international company, has installed more than 200 of their three-stage wastewater treatment systems. The first chamber contains wood chips, earthworms, and microbes. The second level filters the water through crushed rock, and finally the cleaned water is collected in a drainage basin. A dairy farm in Washington State pumps half a million gallons of manure and chemical-laden water through a BioFiltro vermifiltration unit each day. The worms devour all the manure and harmful chemicals while aerating the water and wood chips. The aeration by the worms prevents the chip layer from clogging and becoming anaerobic. The density of worms is around 12,000-18,000 per cubic yard. The dairy reuses this treated water 10 times.