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NATURAL RESOURCES CONSERVATION SERVICE
CONSERVATION PRACTICE STANDARD
A device (tank, watering facility, or other watertight container) for
providing animal access to water.
This practice may be applied as a part of a resource management system
to support one or more of the following purposes:
Protect and enhance vegetative cover through
proper distribution of grazing.
Provide erosion control through better
Protect streams, ponds, and water supplies
from contamination by providing alternative access to water.
Conditions where practice
This practice applies to all land uses where there is a need for new or
improved watering facilities.
Location. Locate the watering facility in such a
manner that runoff from the facility does not have the
potential to enter wells at the well head. The location
shall have easy access by livestock and also provide good
The site shall be well drained. If not, drainage measures
shall be provided. Areas adjacent to the watering facility
that will be trampled by livestock shall be graveled, paved,
or otherwise treated to provide firm footing and reduce
erosion. Gravel, paving material, or other treatment will
not be required if the native materials will provide firm
footing and resist erosion without special treatment.
Design of the protective surface around the watering
facility shall be in accordance with NRCS Conservation
Practice Standard 561, Heavy Use Area Protection.
Capacity. A watering facility and water delivery
system shall have adequate capacity to meet the daily water
requirements of the livestock and/or wildlife. This will
include the storage volume necessary to carry over between
periods of replenishment.
The watering facility shall be sized and provided in
sufficient numbers, as determined using spreadsheet Livestockwater_.xls or equivalent program.
Table 1 shall be used for determining minimum daily
requirements, capacity, and depth of individual watering
Where water is supplied by undependable means (i.e., solar,
RAM, etc.), the minimum watering system storage capacity
shall be three days. However, if an alternate permanent
water source (i.e., pond, lake, stream, etc.) is available
and readily accessible, then the three-day storage period is
Replenishment Rate. The inflow of water in a
three-hour period plus the individual watering facility
(watering facility/tank) capacity shall equal or exceed
one-half the daily requirement for the livestock using the
Table 1 -
Minimum Requirements of Individual
Kind of Livestock
above Normal Ground (inches)
Dairy Cattle (drinking only)
Sheeps & Goats
These requirements vary with climatic conditions,
kind of feed, size of animals, and other factors and
may be increased as necessary.
The minimum capacity of individual watering
facilities may be reduced to 25 gallons, provided
all of the following conditions are met.
The pasture is 14 acres or less.
Water supply into the watering facility is at
least 5 gpm.
The minimum storage capacity is met.
Backflow Protection. Watering facilities that have a potential to
cross-connect with the public water supply system shall have
a properly installed backflow prevention device or air gap
as required by the local water utility’s Cross-Connection
Control Program (Tennessee Code Annotated § 68-221-711 and
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC),
Division of Water Supply, Rule 1200-5-1-.17(6).
Watering facilities connected to potable well systems shall include
measures to prevent backflow or back-siphonage to the well.
Acceptable measures to prevent backflow are the use of an
air gap or double check valve.
Air Gap. Air gaps shall be a minimum of two times the diameter
of the supply line above the crest or overflow device of the
watering facility. (Example: If the supply line is 1 inch,
then the minimum air gap required is 2 inches above the
crest of the overflow device.) The supply line and air gap
shall be protected from contact by livestock. This shall
include measures to protect the air gap from inadvertent
splashing by the livestock during watering.
Components. Automatic water level control and/or
overflow facilities shall be provided as needed. Valves or
pipes shall be protected by shields or covers to prevent
damage by livestock. All valves and water control devices
shall allow the minimum inflow rate. Overflow shall be
piped to a stable or suitable point of release. The pipes
shall be protected from freezing and ice damage.
Watering facilities shall be installed in a manner that will
prevent the facility from leaking or being overturned.
Watering facilities with a capacity larger than 100 gallons
shall be equipped with a minimum
1-inch drain plug to facilitate maintenance of the watering
All exposed pipes, fittings, etc., shall be galvanized or
ultraviolet protected as appropriate.
Gravity-fed systems shall have sufficient head to supply the water for
the designed number of animals. Minimum elevation head
shall be four feet (planned permanent water surface of pond
or spring box to lip of watering facility), when water level
is controlled by a valve. Minimum elevation head shall be
one foot, when water flows through the watering facility.
When a roof is placed over the watering facility to provide
shade, the roof shall be designed for appropriate wind and
snow loads, and shall be durable to withstand anticipated
livestock and wildlife activity.
Materials. All materials shall have a life
expectancy of ten years or more. Common construction
materials are watertight and consist of reinforced concrete,
manufactured freeze-proof plastic, fiberglass, steel, or
large equipment tires. All designs shall meet the industry
standards for the material being used. Generally,
applicable design requirements and procedures can be found
in the documents referenced at the end of this standard.
Reinforced concrete facilities shall have at least
three-inch thick walls and four-inch thick floor with a
minimum of eight-gauge welded wire. They shall be
constructed from a concrete mix producing a minimum
compressive strength of 3,000 psi at 28 days.
Galvanized steel tanks shall have a minimum thickness of 20
Plastic or fiberglass watering facilities shall be made of
ultraviolet resistant materials or shall have a durable
coating to protect the structure from deterioration due to
sunlight. Minimum thickness of the walls and floor shall be
When a large equipment tire is used as a watering facility, it shall be
of suitable quality to perform as intended for the useful
life of the practice. The tire shall be free of chemicals
injurious to livestock. An approved standard drawing shall
be used to prepare site-specific designs for this type of
Water Supply and Outlet
The watering facility shall be equipped with a suitable
water supply pipe, drainage outlet, and overflow outlet,
either as individual outlets or a combination of outlets.
Drainage outlets for systems with flow-through water must
extend at least ten feet from the watering facility.
Plumbing shall be new galvanized steel, copper, bronze, or
plastic pipe and fittings in conformance with Conservation
Practice Standard, Pipeline, Code 516. Water supply
pipelines are to have a minimum inside diameter of 1 1/4
inches for gravity flow systems or 3/4 inch for pressurized
systems. The supply lines shall be connected in a manner to
prevent leakage and provide proper sanitary protection
(i.e., backflow prevention).
Ram pumps require falling water to pump water uphill. The
minimum vertical fall from drive pipe inlet to the ram shall
be two feet. In order to provide a constant supply and
uniform head of water, the water shall be collected in a
durable trash-resistant device (inverted PVC pipe, concrete,
or galvanized metal) before it enters the drive pipe to the
ram. The length of the drive pipe shall be five times the
vertical fall to ensure proper operation. It shall be buried
on a constant grade with no turns to the ram. The ram pump
shall be located on a concrete foundation and appropriately
protected or housed. A gate valve shall be installed near
the ram entrance so that periodic maintenance can be done.
Nose pumps shall be anchored to concrete or other approved
device to prevent damage by livestock.
This practice may adversely affect cultural resources and must comply
with NRCS General Manual (GM) 420, Part 401.
Wildlife escape devices should be installed to provide small mammals,
amphibians, and birds an escape from the watering facility.
Provide room for at least 1 animal in 20 to drink from a watering
facility at one time. Plan on 20 inches of perimeter for
circular watering facilities and 30 inches of length for the
straight side of a watering facility for each animal
drinking. (Circumference equals diameter X 3.1416.
Diameter equals circumference divided by 3.1416).
The water level in open watering facilities should be approximately 1.5
inches below the top of the watering facility to avoid water
saturating the area surrounding the watering facility.
Where rotational grazing is practiced, use portable watering facilities
that can be relocated to disperse impacts from trampling
To ensure uniform grazing and waste distribution in the field, cattle
should not travel more than 800 feet to the watering
Generally, watering facilities should be located within 500 feet of
where lactating dairy cattle are grazing. (See publication
“Prescribed Grazing and Feeding Management for Lactating
Dairy Cows,” New York State Grazing Lands Conservation
Initiative and USDA/NRCS, January 2000.)
Where possible, a watering facility can provide water for
two to four pastures. Gates or gaps may be placed adjacent
to the watering facility to allow livestock access to the
entire watering facility from any one paddock at one time.
Avoid placing feeding areas or other concentrated animal
activities above a water source.
Ponds serving as a water source for a watering facility should be fenced
to prevent cattle from damaging pond banks and creating
water quality problems with the water source. The fenced
boundary around the pond provides a vegetative filter strip
for water entering the pond. Fencing should be installed
according to Conservation Practice Standard
Code 382 ‑ Fence.
The watering facility should be located so that loafing of
the cattle around it is not encouraged. The watering
facility placed under trees encourages loafing and also
creates maintenance problems with leaves dropping into it.
If water temperature is a concern, the watering facility can
be partially buried or shaded with a roof.
An alternate permanent water source (such as a pond, lake,
stream, etc.) is recommended to have water available for
livestock, if the normal water source becomes inoperable.
Plans and specifications for installing a watering facility shall be in
keeping with this standard and shall describe the
requirements for applying the practice to achieve its
Operation and maintenance
An O&M plan specific to the type of installed watering
facility shall be provided to the landowner. The plan shall
include, but not be limited to, the following provisions:
Check for debris, algae, sludge, or other
materials in the watering facility that may restrict the
inflow or outflow system.
Check for leaks and repair immediately if any
Check the automatic water level device to
ensure proper operation.
Check to ensure that adjacent areas are well
protected against erosion.
Check to ensure the outlet pipe is freely
operating and not causing erosion or ponding problems.
Prepare guidance for winter weather, such as
adding material in the storage area to allow for ice
expansion without damage.
Algae and iron sludge accumulation should be addressed in areas with
water quality that is known to cause problems. Chemicals
such as copper, sulfate, and chlorine can be recommended as
needed, as long as local rules and regulations are followed.
Manual of Steel Construction, American Institute of
Timber, National Design Specification for Wood, American
Forest and Paper Association.
Concrete, ACI 318, American Concrete Institute.
Masonry, Building Code Requirement for Masonry Structures,
ACI 530, American Concrete Institute.
"Selection of Alternative Livestock Watering
"Solar-Powered Livestock Watering Systems" (UT PB-1640).
NRCS Conservation Practice Standard
Heavy Use Area Protection, Code 561
Fence, Code 382
Pipeline, Code 516.
Alabama NRCS Guide Sheet
AL-614 – “Watering Facilities for Livestock”.
“Prescribed Grazing and Feeding Management for Lactating
Dairy Cows,” New York State Grazing Lands and USDA/NRCS,
Tennessee Code Annotated § 68-221-711.
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation,
Division of Water Supply, Rule 1200-5-1-17(6).
Cross-Connection Control Manual, U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), June 1989.
Foundation for Cross-connection Control and Hydraulic
Research, University of Southern California.