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Farm Water Planning

Water is an essential requirement for running a farm business and has a significant impact upon the livestock enterprise with relation to stock welfare, farm productivity and business profitability. Knowledge of livestock water requirements and potential sources of water are important for planning on both an annual and daily basis. The goal of farm water planning is to have the water you need, where you need it, when you need it. Farm water planning also takes into account the levels of risk associated with water supply reliability.
Essential elements of farm water planning include:

  • understanding total farm water requirements,
  • evaluating the reliability of water sources,
  • determining the sizes of storages (dams or tanks) needed,
  • matching stocking rates to water availability,
  • designing farm water supply and reticulation systems,
  • determining how long water supplies will last during times of prolonged below average rainfall years or droughts.

In periods of low rainfall or in low rainfall areas, water shortages can be a significant limitation to productivity. A lack of water can mean destocking the property or carting water in, while poor water quality can restrict the type of stock run or inhibit their productivity.

Farm water balance

A key component of farm water planning is undertaking an annual farm water balance. A water balance considers:

  • Water requirements (uses of water) on-farm
  • Water supplies on-farm (water available)
Secure a reliable source of water. Are there any alternatives?
Check that the quality meets livestock requirements
  • The balance between water supply and use
Determine how much water may be required by a mob at one point at one time.
Ensure the water supply / storage will meet maximum requirements with enough storage and correct flow rates into troughs.
  • Storages

Using the information provided by the water budget along with an understanding of water distribution, quality and seasonal weather patterns can help guide decision making on-farm.

Before making changes in a paddock, consider your whole farm livestock watering system.

Assess your current system:

  • What does your current system look like? Are the pipes and water points in the right location?
  • What is the current condition of the pipelines and water points?  (Eg Corrosion, leaks, age of pipes, erosion etc)
  • Map all existing pipelines, dams, tanks and troughs.

Plan your future system:

  • Before replacing existing infrastructure map a new water system for the whole property
  • Identify the urgent and highest priorities changes then work through implementing the new water system even if it takes a number of years.
  • Get advice when selecting pumps, pipe diameters and pressure-rating’s to achieve the desired flow rates

Consider a cost effective system:

  • use gravity reticulation to move water
  • use central water points and portable systems
  • use tanks that can service a number of troughs
  • cost of water.


Note: To convert L/year to ML/year, divide L/year by 1,000,000

Water testing

The best way to be certain about the quality of your water is to have it tested. When testing water:

  • Rinse meters and container in water to be tested. Read off numbers taking note of units.
  • Stock bores can be tested on freshly pumped water at the trough.
  • Bores should be monitored at regular intervals (monthly or quarterly), for example March, June, September and December.
  • EC meters are relatively inexpensive and available at various water equipment dealers.
  • EC and pH measurements are done free of charge at many Department of Environment and Primary Industries (DEPI) locations.
  • For more in depth water tests including mineral analysis contact testing labs listed in the contacts section of this booklet.

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