How does Monsanto Hawaii conserve our islands’ limited water supply?

Each week, we will answer a question from our readers regarding our operations and community outreach in the State of Hawaii. Submit your question by visiting the contact page. Thanks for reading. Mahalo!

Q: How does Monsanto Hawaii conserve our islands’ limited water supply?

Water is a limited resource. According to Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations (FAO), agriculture is the world’s largest consumer of water. Between now and 2050 the world’s water supply will have to feed and create livelihoods for an additional 2.7 billion people. It is essential to identify ways to preserve this precious resource.

Here at Monsanto Hawaii, the natural resources we use to operate our businesses are of utmost importance to fulfilling our commitment to sustainability. We care deeply about protecting our island’s natural resources, including our island’s most valuable resource – water.

Over the last several years, Monsanto Hawaii has saved approximately 50 million gallons of water each year by making key changes in our irrigation practices, with more savings to come.

Several years ago, our research team undertook a series of studies at our Molokai and Kunia locations in Hawaii to better understand how irrigation moves through soil and how it’s absorbed by the crop. Previously, irrigation had been managed on a pre-determined schedule.

By learning more about how crops use water depending on recent rainfall and current weather conditions, Monsanto employees were able to implement new procedures to save water, changing the standard irrigation schedule from three short times a week to one longer irrigation event per week and making water use more efficient. The new schedule helped the crop better absorb nutrients and save more than 11 million gallons of water: enough for more than 150 households a year.

Monsanto Hawaii also recently upgraded its automated irrigation system at our Haleiwa farm – an investment in sustainability that led to an additional savings of approximately 40 million gallons per year. The upgraded system allows us to better control the flow of water through our irrigation system, resulting in improved water efficiency.

Going forward, we continue to look at opportunities to build on these results, and are working to refine our irrigation programs at our other farm sites in Hawaii. Eventually, it’s our hope to develop a true on-demand irrigation system which could save even more water.

Monsanto Hawaii is saving natural resources in other ways too, including:

  • We use recycled R-1 Water: At our Piilani Farm on Maui, all landscaping irrigation, toilet water and agricultural irrigation systems use non-potable recycled water (R-1) purchased from the Kihei Wastewater Reclamation Facility. In 2010, Monsanto signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Maui County – pledging to use more R-1 if it were to become available.
  • Our Kunia Farm office building is LEED Certified (silver level) for its green building features, including efficient lighting and cooling systems, recycled or low-emitting building materials, and eco-friendly water systems.
  • We have an ongoing irrigation drip tube recycling program: At Monsanto Hawaii, we irrigate our fields using drip line due to its efficiency in delivering water in an environmentally friendly way. While this method reduces the amount of water needed to grow a crop, it also creates rubbish from discarded irrigation tubing. Over time, as we accumulate the used drip line, we bale and send them away for recycling. On Maui, we recently recycled 222,040 pounds of plastic drip line, keeping it out of our island’s landfills.

To learn more about our conservation efforts, please visit our Conservation page.