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 Watering Facility

Code 614


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 grassland management.


·         Protect streams, ponds, and water supplies from contamination by providing alternative access to water.


Conditions where practice applies

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 grazing distribution.

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 facilities.

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 not required.

 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 facility.


Table 1 - Minimum Requirements of Individual  

                Watering Facilities

Kind of Livestock

Water Facility Capacity




Daily Require-

ment 1/


Maximum Height above Normal Ground (inches)



100 (25) 2/





100 (25) 2/




Yearly Bovine

100 (25) 2/




Dairy Cattle (drinking only)


100 (25) 2/





100 (25) 2/




Sheeps & Goats










1/      These requirements vary with climatic conditions, kind of feed, size of animals, and other factors and may be increased as necessary.

2/      The minimum capacity of individual watering facilities may be reduced to 25 gallons, provided all of the following conditions are met.

1. The pasture is 14 acres or less.

2. Water supply into the watering facility is at least 5 gpm.

3. 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 facility.

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 gauge. 

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 one-fourth inch.

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 tank. 

 Water Supply and Outlet Pipe.  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.  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.  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 vegetation.

To ensure uniform grazing and waste distribution in the field, cattle should not travel more than 800 feet to the watering facility. 

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

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 intended purpose.


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 are found. 

·         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 Steel Construction.

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 Systems" (UT PB-1641).

"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, January 2000.

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.





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