Farm Water Supply Requirements

 
 
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 Water supply system | Livestock and poultry water consumption | Water requirements | Water sources | Other planning considerations | Work sheet | Calculator

All farms in Alberta require a safe and dependable supply of good water. To accomplish this goal requires some planning. Start by estimating the average daily water requirements and annual water requirements.

Water Supply System

Table 1 and the attached worksheets can be used for estimating the amount of water used on a farm. The average daily water requirements are based on typical average outside or in-barn temperatures that occur throughout the year.

Although these average numbers are useful for estimating water use throughout the year, they cannot be used for designing the water supply or pumping system. For example, consider a beef feedlot on a hot summer day. Feeder cattle will drink approximately twice the amount shown in Table 1. For this reason, the water supply and pumping system need to be designed to meet these peak demand days.

Livestock and Poultry Water Consumption

Livestock and poultry water consumption depend on a number of physiological and environmental conditions such as:

  • type and size of animal or bird
  • physiological state (lactating, pregnant or growing)
  • activity level
  • type of diet – dry hay, silage or lush pasture
  • temperature – hot summer days above 25C can sometimes double the water consumption of animals raised outside
  • water quality – palatability and salt content
Water Requirements

The attached worksheets can be used to calculate the farm water requirements. In addition to the daily water requirements, consider other water uses throughout the year such as:
  • garden and yard watering
  • greenhouse
  • fire
  • other uses
The above water requirements can then be added to the daily water requirements to estimate the total annual water requirements.

Water Sources

The next step in the planning process is to ensure the water sources are sufficient to meet the average farm water requirements throughout the year as well as the peak demand days. Begin with an inventory of all the water sources including wells, dugouts, etc.

For well sources, list the number of wells, the well purpose, construction date(s), depth, casing size and well yield in gallons per minute plus any supply or quality problems.

For slow producing wells that produce sufficient water but not fast enough to meet peak water demands, consider adding a cistern. The addition of a cistern, with about one half to one day’s water storage, will often eliminate the need for another well or wells. The water can then be re-pumped at a much faster rate to meet the peak demands. For more information on wells, refer to the manual Water Wells That Last Generations. Copies of this manual can be obtained from the Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development Publications Office in Edmonton by calling toll-free 1-800-292-5697.

For dugouts, list the purpose, age, size and approximate water volume plus any problems with seepage, quality or inadequate runoff. To determine the dugout size required, add up the daily water requirements (on the attached worksheets) and multiply by the number of days used per year to obtain your annual water requirements.

For runoff filled dugouts in Alberta, the dugout size should contain a two or three year requirement. This level will prevent shortages during extended drought periods. In southern areas where dugouts can be filled from an irrigation canal, the dugout can be sized for a 250 to 365 day capacity.

Allowances should also be made for summer evaporation, seepage and ice losses in winter. Dugout evaporation ranges from 15 per cent in northern Alberta to 30 to 50 per cent in southern Alberta. Seepage losses are extremely variable. Dugouts used for winter water supplies will lose approximately 25 per cent to ice. Generally, deeper dugouts with steep slopes provide the best water quality and help minimize losses. For more information on farm dugouts, refer to Agdex 716 (B01) Quality Farm Dugouts.

For farms using both wells and dugouts as a farmstead water supply, consider using the well water for household use because it is typically of better quality. Dugouts can provide a good quality water source for livestock and irrigation purposes. Dugouts can also provide a good habitat for some types of fish; however, it is best to place them in a pond not used for other purposes.

Table 1. Average daily water requirements (water use/consumption in imperial gallons per day or gpd)
Type of Animal
Animal Size
gpd
Type of Animal
Animal Size
gpd
BeefDairy
Feeders*550 lb.4.0Milking cow**Holstein30.0
900 lb.7.0Dry cows/replacement heifersHolstein10.0
1250 lb.10.0Calvesto 550 lb.3.0
Cows with calves**1300 lb.12.0Poultry
Dry cows**1300 lb.10.0Broilers0.035
Calves**250 lb.2.0Roaster/pullets0.040
Swine***Layers0.055
Farrow-finish20/sowBreeders0.070
Farrow-late wean50 lb.6.5/sowTurkey growers0.130
Farrow-early wean15 lb.5.5/sowTurkey heavies0.160
Feeder50-250 lb.1.5/pigSheep/Goats
Weaner15-50 lb.0.5/pigEwes/does2.0
Horses, Bison, Mules10.0Milking Ewes/does2.0
Household use: People60/personFeeder lamb/kids1.5
Elk, Donkeys5.0Deer, Llamas, Alpacas2.0
Ostriches1.0
*For peak demand on hot summer days above 25C - multiply gpd x 2.
**For peak demand on hot summer days above 25C - multiply gpd x 1.5.
***The numbers for all types of swine and milking dairy cows include wash water.

Other Planning Considerations

No matter what water source is used, the following things must be done to protect your water supply:
  • regularly test the water
  • treatment, if necessary
  • monitor supply
  • protect the water source from contamination
For more information on farm water sources, systems, analysis and treatment, refer to Agdex series 716 A, B, C, and D or contact an Agricultural Water Specialist at the following locations:

Prepared by:
Farm Water Supply Branch
Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

Work Sheet

Average daily and annual water requirement
The average daily and annual water requirement numbers can be used for estimating the amount of water used on a farm. The average daily water requirements are based on typical average outside or in-barn temperatures that occur through the year. These numbers, however, cannot be used for designing the water supplies and pumping capacity of a farm water system. For example, consider a beef feedlot on a hot summer day. Feeder cattle will drink approximately twice the amounts shown in the table below. For this reason, the water supply and pumping systems need to be designed to meet these peak demands.

Household Use
People
x
60.0
gpd
=
gpd

BeefAnimal SizeNo. Of Animals
Feeders*
550 lb.
x
4.0
gpd
=
gpd
feeders on silage
900 lb.
x
7.0
gpd
=
gpd
feeders on silage
1250 lb.
x
10.0
gpd
=
gpd
feeders on silage
Cows with calves**
1300 lb.
x
12.0
gpd
=
gpd
on pasture or hay
Dry cows**
1300 lb.
x
10.0
gpd
=
gpd
on pasture or hay
Calves**
250 lb.
x
2.0
gpd
=
gpd
on pasture or hay
* For peak demand on hot summer days above 25C, mulitply gpd x 2.
** For peak demand on hot summer days above 25C, mulitply gpd x 1.5.


Swine***
Animal Size
No. Of Animals
Farrow - Finish
x
20.0
gpd
=
gpd
Farrow - Late Wean50 lb.
x
6.5
gpd
=
gpd
Farrow - Early Wean15 lb.
x
5.5
gpd
=
gpd
Feeder50-250 lb.
x
1.5
gpd
=
gpd
Weaner15-50 lb.
x
0.5
gpd
=
gpd
***Includes wash water for all types of swine operations. Water use and water wastage can be reduced with a wet-dry feeding system.

Dairy
Animal Size
No. of Animals
Milking Cow***Holstein
x
30.0
gpd
=
gpd
Dry Cows/Replacement HeifersHolstein
x
10.0
gpd
=
gpd
Calvesto 550 lb.
x
3.0
gpd
=
gpd
*** Includes 3 gpd/cow for wash water.
Sub Total __________________ gpd
PoultryNo. of Birds
Broilers
x
0.035gpd
=
gpd
Roasters/Pullets
x
0.040gpd
=
gpd
Layers
x
0.055gpd
=
gpd
Breeders
x
0.070gpd
=
gpd
Turkey Growers
x
0.130gpd
=
gpd
Turkey Heavies
x
0.160gpd
=
gpd

Sheep/GoatsNo. of Animals
Ewes/Does
x
2.0
gpd
=
gpd
Milking Ewes/Does
x
3.0
gpd
=
gpd

Horses, Bison, Mules
x
10.0
gpd
=
gpd
Elk, Donkeys
x
5.0
gpd
=
gpd
Deer, Llamas, Alpacas
x
2.0
gpd
=
gpd
Ostriches
x
1.0
gpd
=
gpd
Sub Total _________________ gpd
Total Daily Water Requirements _________________ gpd
Annual Water Requirements
Irrigation of garden and yard in the summer (assume 6 in. application)
Area in square feet
x
3 gal/sq.ft.
=
gal.
Chemical Spraying (acres)gal/acre
=
gal.
Greenhouse
=
gal.
Fire (1200 gal./2 hour period)
=
gal.
Other Uses
=
gal.
Total daily water requirements (from above)
_________ gpd
x
365 days
=
gal.
Total Annual Water Requirements
=
gal.
*For information on water requirements for field crops, contact an irrigation specialist.

Note: These livestock and poultry water requirement numbers have been compiled with input from Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development staff. Please visit the Quality Farm Dugouts publication on the Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development website for more information on calculating the size of dugout required.

Calculator

Average daily and annual water requirements calculator
An online calculator is provided that uses the same default values shown in this factsheet. If you currently meter your water use and have water use rates that consistently differ from these default values, you may wish to use these values instead. In the case of livestock, the herd age distribution, feed systems (i.e. wet feed) or other specialized production management can increase or decrease your water use (see the online calculator.)

Source: Agdex 716(C01). Revised April 2009.
 
 
 
 
For more information about the content of this document, contact Duke.
This information published to the web on January 1, 2000.
Last Reviewed/Revised on April 1, 2009.