Compost Water Runoff #606322 - Ask Extension


Compost Water Runoff #606322

Asked November 13, 2019, 12:30 PM EST

I understand the value of composting, but I’ve read something articles recently that talk about the water runoff from compost piles. The articles talked about how the runoff can contaminate the under ground water and one’s well. Do you have any information on this topic and how to deal with the water runoff? Thanks

Benzie County Michigan

Expert Response

Hello and thank you for using eXtension for your composting and water quality question.  First I must ask how big is your compost pile and how close is it to your well head or lake? 

These are factors that determine the answer.  If you just have a family sized compost with garden and kitchen waste there is probably not much to worry about. BUT if you have a small farm with livestock and horses and a large amount of compost containing manure (high nitrogen) then we need to consider your water table and proximity to your well. 
How much organic waste and its proximity to an open body of water or a well are the concerns. if you manage your compost well, dont stockpile it and keep a good bufferstrip between sources of water you technically should be in good shape.  


Beth Clawson Replied November 13, 2019, 3:32 PM EST
Thank you Beth for replying to my question.

My composting pile will 12’ square and 5’ high and 300’ from well-head. I wanted to experiment with how hot I can get it to. Depending on the amount of heat that can be produced and sustained I want use it for a snow melting heating system for my driveway and sidewalk. All though the compost pile will be 300’ away from the well-head I don’t know where the underground water flow is located.


The Question Asker Replied November 14, 2019, 9:05 AM EST
If you are 300 feet from your wellhead, then you are probably in good shape.  Keep an eye on any water puddling or pooling around your pile.  this can cause it to stink.  keep your compost turned to keep your heat up and prevent unwanted odors.  You will need to replenish  your compost about every 3-4 weeks to maintain compost heat above ambient temperatures. 
Beth Clawson Replied November 14, 2019, 3:38 PM EST

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