Sustainable System: Gravity Water System


This is Shaen's gravity water system for the cattle. It is a simple system that does not require the use of a pump or energy.

During the cold winter months, Shaen had to carry water to the cattle since there isn’t an underground water system. In Kamloops, a winter watering system would have to be at least five feet down to avoid ground frost. In the winter, cattle need less water because they learn to eat snow. Neverthelss, carrying water is not a pleasurable task. Shaen put a positive spin on the chore by pointing out the massive shoulders he has developed since starting pasturing animals! By the end of the winter he found he could run a hose from our neighbor’s frost-free hydrant to the cow’s trough. He would then drain the hose completely before it froze.

About four weeks ago the ground warmed up enough to get the gravity fed water system operational. The water system is based on a well and a 3,000 gallon holding tank. The well will give about 500 gallons a day, so Shaen has to be very frugal with water use. Shaen uses 3/4 inch polyethylene piping for the main lines and 1/2 inch for feeder lines. By the time the water gets to the livestock trough, there is about 35psi of pressure. When making a gravity water system you will get about 1/2 psi for each vertical foot of height between your reservoir and the outlet minus the flow loss caused by the piping itself.

Just before Olivia gave birth, Shaen separated Olivia from our little Dexter bull, Piglet. This meant separating the water into two troughs. The larger trough is for Olivia and the calf and is a food grade plastic barrel cut in two. The water fills the first trough and as it overflows it gravity fills the second smaller trough on the other side of the fence. As you can see, just about anything can be used as a trough. As soon as possible, Shaen will replace the second trough with another food grade plastic half barrel. Troughs must be large enough that the animals never run out of water. Larger troughs are?harder for the bull to knock over but can be difficult to empty when the trough needs to be moved to a new location.

The white pail is filled with sea salt and kelp. Shaen adds Fertrell Dairy Supplement Mix. There is also a cobalt salt lick for dairy cows. Since there is still no pasture to eat, the cows are eating hay, barley haylage and alfalfa haylage. We also give Olivia a small amount of grain and a few over-wintered apples during milking time. Olivia loves apples and always gives Shaen a big lick after receiving this treat.


Don't spend a fortune on plumbing and fixtures. This is a transit point between the 3/4" main lines and the 1/2" feeder lines. We use inexpensive two hour timers for the irrigation system.


This is Shaen's simple irrigation sprinkler system. A steel tube is pounded into the ground with a rock. The steel tube can be moved wherever water is needed in the pasture.


The sprinkler is inserted into the top of the steel tube. The steel tube gets the sprinkler about three feet off the ground, increasing the watering area.