Quality Farm Dugouts

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Quality Farm Dugouts (3rd Edition) is a workbook developed by Water Specialists from across the Canadian prairies. It is designed to help you develop and maintain your dugout water system so that it meets your needs for years to come. The workbook provides a systems approach to improving both the supply and quality of water starting with the dugout watershed and continuing to its final use. The workbook contains 9 modules and 5 worksheets. It is recommended that you obtain a copy of the manual, which contains both completed examples of the worksheets as well as blank worksheets to use for your own farm dugouts.
Agdex 716 (B01)

Copies of this book may be ordered by:

A digital version of this book can be downloaded here.

This publication is a product of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. The purpose of this manual is to provide the latest research information on improving both the quantity and quality of dugout water. It identifies and explains general dugout planning, design, construction, treatment, and management practices. It also indicates practices to avoid, and attempts to dispel a few myths about dugout water management.

How to Use this Manual

Quality Farm Dugouts contains nine modules including a number of worksheets that complement the text and add a very practical element to the manual’s use. A pocket in the front cover stores example worksheets. A pocket in the back cover stores blank worksheets and can be used to store other important documents for your dugout, such as completed estimates, record forms, and personal contacts. Although certain topics will be of more interest and value than others, we recommend that you start with Module 1 and work through the manual systematically.

Module 1 History - Provides background on the use of farm dugouts on the Canadian prairies.

Farm dugouts on the Canadian Prairies have been used as small, water storage reservoirs for many years. In areas where groundwater is either unavailable or of very poor quality, impounding surface runoff is often the only means of ensuring a continuous water supply. For the most part, dugouts capture the temporary surplus of surface water that occurs during snowmelt in the spring. Water may also be collected as runoff from summer rains, but it is typically of very low quality. In order to guarantee reliability of supply, storage capacity must be sufficient to compensate for years of insufficient runoff, summer losses due to evaporation, and winter losses due to ice formation....Read More

Module 2 Understanding Prairie Dugouts - Gives an understanding of some of the unique aspects of the prairie climate and the challenges involved in securing and maintaining a good supply of dugout water.

It is much easier to design, operate, and maintain high quality dugouts if you understand the natural processes that control them. This module explains some of these processes. Climate and landscape determine how much runoff will be captured by a dugout. Once the runoff is stored, the dugout provides an environment for a wide variety of plants, animals, and micro-organisms that can have a huge impact on water quality....Read More

Topics in this module:
  • The Prairie Climate
  • The Prairie Dugout
  • Dugout Water Quality
  • Biology of a Dugout
  • The Life Span of a Dugout
Module 3 Planning - Learn to size a farm dugout and protect water quality through best management practices.

Make sure you carefully plan your water system. You will need to determine water requirements, take an inventory of water sources, and plan for land use practices that protect water supply....Read More

Topics in this module:
  • Planning Farm Water Supplies
  • Regulatory and Funding Issues
  • Watershed Runoff Potential and Water Quality
    • Watershed Runoff Potential and Dugout Sizing
    • Water Quality and Watershed Management
  • Dugout Siting
    • Proximity to Water Use
    • Proximity to Electrical Power
    • Trees
    • Proximity to Other Water Sources
    • Contamination
Module 4 Design and Construction - Learn about the importance of proper design and construction for ensuring a dependable supply of good water.

Dugout Design: The construction and management of a dugout can have a large impact on water quality. Design options allow dugout owners to control inflow and permit only the highest quality water to be stored. Once runoff has been collected, good management can prevent water quality from deteriorating as illustrated in Figure 4-1 Dugout Design and Beneficial Management Practices....Read More

Topics in this module:
  • Dugout Design
    • Slopes
    • Erosion Control
    • Inlet Structures
    • Livestock Exclusion
    • Sedimentation Dugouts
  • Dugout Construction
    • Pre-Construction Testing
    • Large Scale Sealing Methods and Materials
      • Clay Lining
      • Bentonite
      • Sodium Chloride
      • Plastic Liners
      • Gleization
      • Perimeter Trench
    • Excavating Equipment
      • Trackhoe
      • Dragline
      • Scraper or Buggy
      • Dozer
    • Selecting a Contractor
      • Experience
      • References
      • Equipment
      • Dugout Finishing
      • Costs
      • Time Factor
      • Construction Estimate
Module 5: Operating Systems - Discusses water intakes, pumps, piping, aeration and remote livestock watering systems.

Equipment Systems: A well-designed and efficient water system is a very important part of a farming operation. Dugouts are large reservoirs of water that can be pumped at a much faster rate than most wells on the Prairies. This is only an advantage if the water intake, pump, and water distribution lines are sized to meet the peak demands of the farm. Dugout aeration systems can make a dynamic improvement in dugout water quality. Remote watering systems that pump out of pasture dugouts help protect livestock from illness and injury as well as improve water quality and livestock production....Read More

Topics in this module:
  • Equipment Systems
    • Intake Systems
      • Floating Intake Systems
    • Other Intake Systems
    • Wet Wells
    • Pumps
    • Water Distribution System
  • Dugout Aeration Systems
    • Types of Aeration Systems
    • Components of an Aeration System
      • Power Supply
      • Air Compressors
      • Aeration Lines
      • Diffusers
    • Safety
  • Remote Pasture Water Systems for Livestock
    • Problems with Direct Watering
    • Environmental Problems
    • Herd Health Problems
    • Poor Pasture and Nutrient Transfer Problems
  • Pasture Water System Trials
  • Remote Pasture Water Systems Benefits
  • Pasture Water Systems
  • Livestock Watering Alternatives
    • Access Ramps
    • Water Hauling
    • Water Storage
    • Gravity-fed Systems
    • Pumped Gravity Flow Reservoirs
    • Animal Operated Pasture Pumps
    • Pipelines
    • Gas-powered Pumping Systems
    • Solar-powered Pumping Systems
    • Wind-powered Pumping Systems
  • Options for Winter Watering Livestock at Remote Locations
    • Watering Bowl with a Drain Back System to Prevent Freezing
    • Well Insulated Trough System to Prevent Freezing
    • The Frost-free Nose Pump
Module 6: Water Quality for Domestic and Human Drinking Water Supplies - Identifies the health risks and water testing procedures necessary for guaranteeing a safe dugout water supply.

Domestic and drinking water supplies have higher quality requirements than most other uses. Water that appears to be acceptable based on visual appearance, taste, odour, and colour may contain contaminants that affect human health. Risks can be chemical or microbiological. It should be remembered that water that has been successfully treated for human consumption might become recontaminated and present real health risks. Re-contamination sometimes occurs in the distribution system.

On the other hand, water that is otherwise harmless may have such objectionable appearance, taste, and odour that it is unacceptable for household use....Read More

Topics in this module:
  • Health Risks and Water Quality
    • Microbiological Factors
      • Bacteri
      • Protozoa
      • Viruses
    • Chemical Factors
  • Aesthetics and Water Quality
  • Standard Testing of Drinking Water
    • Testing for Coliforms
    • Pitfalls of Standard Water Testing Techniques
    • Non-routine Testing of Drinking Water
    • General Testing Recommendations
Module 7: Water Treatment for Domestic Purposes - Deals with water treatment processes and treatment systems required to produce good quality water, effectively and safely.

Water Treatment Systems: Water treatment of surface water for human drinking purposes is a complex and often difficult task. In this module, we discuss a basic description of methods and procedures of surface water treatment, but we are not able to provide exhaustive methods and details in the space available in this publication. Technicians that work in the water treatment industry require extensive education in order to understand the requisite knowledge. Hopefully this module will help you begin to understand some basic methods of surface-water treatment principles....Read More

Topics in this module:
  • Water Treatment Systems
  • Steps in Water Treatment
    • Screened Intake
    • Coagulation
    • Conventional Filtration
    • Biological Filtration
    • Disinfection
    • Polishing Treatment for Drinking Water
  • Maintenance of Treatment Systems
    • Conventional Pressure Sand or Multi-Media Filters
    • Biological Sand Filters
    • Conventional Pressure Carbon Filters
    • Biological Granular Activated Carbon Filters
    • Chlorination Disinfection
    • Ultraviolet Light Disinfection
    • Distillers
    • Reverse Osmosis Units
    • Monitoring
    • Equipment Certification
Module 8: Dugout Management - Looks at ways to monitor changes in dugout water quality and apply treatment strategies such as aeration and chemical control of algae and plants.

The goal of dugout management is to protect and improve water quality. Some of the strategies for doing this through dugout location and design have been discussed in Module 3 – Planning. This module provides suggestions for preserving and enhancing water quality in existing dugouts. The cost and effort to properly manage a dugout is generally small and most often rapidly recovered in the form of improvements in water quality. Improving water quality reduces treatment costs, improves productivity of livestock, and generally improves the quality of rural life.

At a minimum, dugouts need to be inspected weekly during April to September and monthly from October to March. Early detection of problems allows corrective action before water quality deteriorates significantly....Read More

Topics in this module:
  • Dugout Management Practices
    • Established Practices
      • Continuous Aeration
      • Floating Intake
      • Sediment Removal
      • Vegetation Control3
      • Removal of Animals
      • Copper Sulphate
      • Coagulation
      • Herbicides
      • Colourants
      • Dugout Covers
      • Disinfectants
      • Plants
      • Fish
      • Miscellaneous Biological and Chemical Products
Module 9: Trouble Shooting Guide for Dugout Problems - Provides tables to assist with the diagnosis and solution of dugout water supply and quality problems based on the symptoms observed.

Dugout problems fall into two broad categories: water quantity and water quality. Problems can result from the watershed; the dugout location, design, and construction; the systems and equipment for pumping, aeration, and treatment; as well as management practices. This module is designed to identify the source of a problem and provide suggestions for correction. The troubleshooting guide starts by identifying typical symptoms of water quantity or quality problems. It systematically lists possible causes, identification features, suggestions for corrective action, and references for further information within the manual. ...Read More

Topics in this module:
  • Symptom 1 Low Dugout Water Levels
  • Symptom 2 Human or Animal Sickness Caused by Water Contamination
  • Symptom 3 Black Smelly Water in Dugout
  • Symptom 4 Dirty Dugout Water
  • Symptom 5 Discoloured Water and Staining
  • Symptom 6 Mineral Scale and Grey Discolouring of Clothes
  • Symptom 7 Taste and Odour in Water
Appendix 1 - Provincial Regulations
Provincial regulations for water licensing, fish stocking, setbacks, and financial and technical assistance.

Appendix 2 - Water Quality Guide
Information regarding chemicals and waterborne diseases affecting human health, and factors affecting the aesthetic quality of water.

Appendix 3 - Using Copper Products to Control Cyanobacteria
A guide to using copper to control blue-green algae.

Appendix 4 - Contacts and References
Contacts and references related to building dugouts and water quality.

Worksheet - Dugout Sizing Worksheet
Worksheet - Dugout Sizing Worksheet Example
Worksheet - Water System Sizing Worksheet
Worksheet - Water System Sizing Worksheet Example
Worksheet - Dugout Maintenance Schedule

Source: Agdex 716(B01). Revised 2015.

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Joe Harrington.
This document is maintained by Jennifer Rutter.
This information published to the web on March 8, 2016.
Last Reviewed/Revised on April 7, 2016.