How Water Affects Organic Farming Certification

Water affects everyone and everything on the planet, including organics. How organic producers and handlers use water is important and should factor into your organic system plan.

There's No Such Thing as Certified Organic Water

There's no such thing as organic water—period, whether certified organic or not certified. Under National Organic Program (NOP) policy, water is not an ingredient that can be certified as organic.

You may have seen water marketed as, "natural" or as having come from, "organic land" and some companies have even tried to market their bottled water brands as "organic" water. Legally, NOP says that water products, with very few exceptions, cannot be certified organic.

Water Cannot Be Calculated in Organic Product Composition

When calculating the percentage of organically produced ingredients in any given organic product, water must be excluded.

Water Used in Organic Operations Must be Safe

Hopefully, safe water in products is a standard goal for all organic producers and handlers. That said, there are set rules in place to make sure producers and handlers are the using safest water possible when manufacturing products.

Any water used in organic operations must meet the standards and regulations set by the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Safe Drinking Water Act.

Chemical-free Water Must Be Used for Cleaning Organic Food

Water used for washing any organic food product must be safe and clean of chemicals. For example, say you wash a bunch of carrots to take to the farmers' market. That water may not be contaminated with added chemicals.

Check out the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances to see what is and is not allowed in organic production.

Chlorine in Water Is Allowed Within Limits

Chlorine is commonly found in our water supply system and thus is allowed by NOP. However, NOP has some standards in place regarding the use of chlorine.

Water used in organic production and handling can only contain the amount of chlorine necessary to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. This includes water used in crop rotation, organic food processing, livestock operations and on-farm post-harvest handling and other handling operations.

Tap Water Is Allowed in Organic Production and Handling

Tap water is regulated by the EPA's Safe Water Drinking Act, which falls under NOP policy of safe water use in organics. Thus, tap water used for rinsing or washing is considered safe and is allowed when handling certified organic products.

Water Conservation Is Not Required

Water conservation is related, but not officially a part of organic production and handling processes or practices. Sustainable practices such as water, energy and soil conservation, greener packaging, eco-friendly shipping, humane animal treatment and so on, are all wonderful, but organic and eco-friendly are not one and the same.

Organic production features many benefits, one of which is natural water conservation and protection. Additionally, organic producers and handlers often do use many sustainable practices. That said, it's not strictly required by NOP that you practice water conservation.

Keep in mind though, that while not required, water conservation is smart, ethical and can even help you cut organic production costs.