A stream of natural, sweet water runs down the slopes of the Klein Drakenstein mountains through Avondale’s land. We are blessed to have pure quality water as the source of life in our vineyards and to use in the making of our extraordinary wines. High up on the farm, a natural stone weir diverts the spring waters into a system of seven dams situated on the slopes.
Irrigation – An integral part of our Eco-system design is that we are able to irrigate the vineyards using gravity instead of pumps. A sophisticated moisture probe system in the vineyard soils enables us to gauge the needs of the vines so that we irrigate sensitively, and only when necessary to avert undue stress during Paarl’s hot, dry Summers.
Whole-system approach – An important part of maintaining the integrity of Avondale’s water system and ensuring its sustainability is the management of water in and from the cellar. The wine production area presents challenges such as over-using water as well as water pollution from the grape juice itself and cleaning agents. We knew we would have to find solutions to these challenges if we wanted to manage our whole water system properly.
Water conservation – Avondale controls the use of water and prevents wasting water in the cellar with a system of automatic shut-off valves on all taps. We also save water and reduce waste water by making use of sterilising UV lights to supplement the cleaning of tanks and barrels.
Waste Water System – In our cellar we only use cleaning agents that meet organic standards; they are readily biodegradable and free of harmful residues. However, waste water from the cellar is also concentrated with grape residues which would pollute the environment if introduced back without treatment. The conventional treatment of waste water from a production facility often includes chemical additives and aeration systems that use electricity. Avondale was determined to devise a waste water system that mimicked the way Nature cleans water. After extensive research, we implemented a system of three dams interlinked by spiralling channels of cleansing reeds that replicates a natural river system.
Effluent from our cellar is pumped into the first dam and inoculated with Effective Micro-organisms which includes a variety of microbes that can live in both anaerobic and aerobic conditions. The microbes start their work in anaerobic conditions and begin digesting the excessive nutrients in the water. Water flows from the first dam through the first spiralling ‘river’ system where the cleansing reeds draw out even more nutrients; growing thick, lush and green – and over time, providing us also with composting material.
At the second dam the water is already aerobic, and it provides a habitat for a host of insects as well as foraging and nesting birds, all signalling the health of the environment. Water continues to flow through the next set of spiralling reed-lined channels to the third dam by which time the water is superbly purified and the environs are hosting even more wildlife. It is a highly effective natural, closed-nutrient cycle that yields quality water from waste which we can then use for irrigation. Plans are underway to extend the value of our current waste water system to a series of shallow pans where we can grow blue-green algae which is an enriching natural fertilizer we can use in the vineyards.