New Zealand has 16,500 dairy farms (avg. 220 cows), with cows kept on pasture throughout the year. During the 9-month dairy season, the cows are milked twice a day (averaging 2.5-3 h per day in the dairy parlour). Urine and faecal wastes deposited in the dairy parlour are washed away with high pressure hoses, using large volumes of water. A common method of treatment is in simple two-pond (anaerobic/facultative) lagoon systems, which remove about 95% of suspended solids and BOD5, but only 75% of total-N prior to discharge. High concentrations of ammoniacal-N in the effluent can cause toxicity to aquatic organisms in receiving waters. Mechanical aeration of the second (facultative) lagoon to promote nitrification improves effluent quality by reducing oxygen demand and potential ammonia toxicity to streamlife. Mechanical aeration however is associated with considerable mixing, which may prevent algae from optimising photosynthesis in the facultative lagoon. A series of experiments was undertaken which tested the efficiency of mechanical aeration and then attempted to combine it with daytime algal oxygen production in order to maximise ammonia conversion to nitrate, while minimising costs to the farmer. An experimental facility was developed by dividing a large facultative lagoon into two, producing a matched pair of lagoons, operated in parallel with influent flow split equally. Over successive dairy seasons, various aeration regimes were compared. Continuous aeration promoted nearly complete nitrification of the ammoniacal-N (99% removal), and effluent BOD was approximately halved. However the continuous mixing reduced algal biomass, and thus daytime algal photosynthesis. Night-only aeration permitted greater algal photosynthesis to occur, as well as halving electrical power consumption. Ammoniacal-N removal reduced to 90% (10 g m-3 remaining in the effluent), while BOD removal was also lower than in the continuously aerated lagoon (59 and 69% respectively). Providing a series of biofilm attachment surfaces for nitrifying bacteria by suspending geotextile material close to the surface in the pond in consistently aerobic water resulted in improved ammoniacal-N removal efficiency (93%) with night aeration, but still lower removal than continuous aeration.

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