Livestock Watering Facility
Water tank accessible from four pastures. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.
Livestock watering systems ensure that livestock have ready access to clean drinking water from sources such streams, ponds, springs or wells. Used mainly with grazing systems, well-designed watering systems protect soil and water quality while improving livestock health and productivity.
Multiple well-placed water tanks mean that manure and urine are more evenly spread across a pasture, enhancing grass growth and avoiding runoff of nutrients into surface waters. Multiple watering points also keep livestock from overgrazing the area around any one tank and prevent soil erosion caused by livestock trailing habitually to and from the same spot. Similar conservation benefits are achieved with portable watering systems, which move water to the paddocks where livestock are currently grazing.
Well-planned livestock water systems are especially important in riparian areas — i.e., in or near stream corridors and around lakes or ponds. They reduce sediment and nutrient loading in streams and lakes by preventing bank and shore erosion and limiting the amount of livestock urine and feces deposited directly in the water.
Watering system "hardware" typically includes permanent or portable watertight tanks or troughs with pipelines and pumps to move water from the water source to the tanks. Tanks may be low-tech or high-tech, small or large, depending on herd size and other factors; some are freeze-proof for winter use. Underground pipe is often installed for permanent tanks, while temporary above-ground water lines provide flexibility for portable watering facilities. Pumps are used to pipe water from lower to higher elevations, such as from a stream to tanks in a nearby pasture. Examples include livestock-operated nose pumps, solar-powered pumps, water-powered sling pumps and engine-powered pumps.
Guidance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service
See contacts for specific programs that fund this practice in the side-by-side payment comparison or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District