27.2. Water content
: The water content controls both the microbial activity and theoxygen transportation in the compost material. At low water contents oxygen will betransported faster and easier because a greater amount of the pores are filled with air. Thismakes it easier to ensure a high oxygen concentration in the compost. Low water contents, however, are inhibitory to microorganisms whose activity will cease atgravimetric water contents below 8-12 %. The optimal water content also depends on thestructure of material being composted. Materials that are structurally strong can havehigher permissible gravimetric water contents (70-80% for wood chips, straw, hay, etc.) because the structure of the materials ensure that there will be a sufficient amount of air-filled pores. For less structured materials such as wastewater treatment sludge higher water contents will result in low air filled porosity, poor air penetration and difficulty inhandling the materials, as they will become liquefied. Generally the optimal gravimetricwater content for most mixtures of organic wastes containing food residues is between 35and 60% although practice have shown that water contents of 75% for sludge-straw-garden waste compost air-filled porosity can be improved by adding a bulking agent suchas straw, wood chips or paper, or by increasing the airflow through the compost tofacilitate the evaporation of water. In wet climate it may be necessary to provide a roof over the compost facility to prevent high water contents from developing, watering thecompost can cure low water contents. The water content can be adjusted by mixing thewaste with a material of different water content. Assuming that the waste has a water content of
(g/g), the mixing material has a water content of
(g/g) and we want amixture of water content of
(g/g) we can calculate the amount of mixing materialrequired per kg of waste as:kg of mixing materiala – cM
x =kg of waste c – dwhere M
is the amount of mixing material required per kg of waste to adjust thewater content. Note that c must be between
otherwise it is not possible to adjustthe water content.