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Pond and stream buffers

Many small acreage livestock owners rely on ponds and streams to provide animals with easy access to drinking water.

Allowing animals to have direct access to ponds and streams can cause serious impacts to water quality.

*What Are The Concerns?

*Pond and Stream Buffers

*Providing limited pond and stream access

*Alternative watering systems

What Are The Concerns?

Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS

  • Destroys vegetation and bank stability.
  • Pollutants, including bacteria, nutrients, sediments and organic matter, wash directly into ponds and streams. See common livestock pollutants for more information.
  • Direct deposit of manure and urine.
  • Aquatic life and water quality are seriously impacted.

Drawing courtesy of University of Wisconsin Extension and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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Pond and Stream Buffers

Use secure permanent or semi-permanent fencing to protect streams, ponds and wetlands from animal access.

Where possible, maintain a minimum 10 - 15 feet wide strip of vegetation between the fencing and water's edge. A 35 feet wide buffer is best. Native trees, shrubs and other vegetation is best for protecting water quality and habitat.

Pond and Stream Buffers:

Trap and filter pollutants - nutrients, pathogens, and sediments.

Provide bank stability.

Protect against flooding and increase groundwater recharge.

Provide habitat for both aquatic and terrestial species.




Photos courtesy of USDA NRCS

Drawing courtesy of USDA NRCS, CT Horse Environmental Awareness Program.

For more information on pond and stream buffers:

URI Home*A*Syst Program Fact Sheet on Shoreland Buffers.

URI Watershed Hydrology Laboratory - Research on riparian zones and watershed processes.

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Providing Limited Pond and Stream Access

When livestock must access a stream for crossing, or when alternative watering options are not immediately feasible, consider fencing a buffer for the majority of the pond or stream edge.

A small access area can be provided. Contact the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service for planning information.

Stream crossing - note the strip of native trees along this stream that help to anchor the stream bank and provide valuable shade and filtering of pollutants.

Photos courtesy of USDA NRCS

Access ramp for livestock watering. The fencing provides limited access. The ramp is protected with a footing of crushed stone to reduce erosion and sedimentation into the stream.

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Alternative Watering Systems

To provide animals with clean drinking water and eliminate direct access to ponds and streams, portable watering tubs with automatic float valves are commonly used. The water may be piped to the tub through various pumping or gravity methods depending on the water source.

Photo couresty of USDA NRCS

When using a pond or stream as a watering source, consider pumping the water to a holding tank or water tub that is located within a pasture or livestock yard.

Hydraulic ram pumps use the energy of flowing water from a stream to lift water to an elevated storage tank or other discharge point.

Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS

Nose-operated demand pumps rely on suction that is created when cattle push a lever with their nose.

Depending on topography, a storage tank can be located at a high point on the property allowing for gravity feed to watering tubs. Automatic float valves for gravity feed watering systems are available.

Photo courtesy of USDA NRCS

Fencing and watering systems have come a long way. The importance of pond and stream buffers and a renewed interest in management intensive grazing or rotational grazing has created a demand for innovative and efficient fencing and watering products. Check with fencing and livestock supply dealers for more informaiton.

For more information on livestock fencing and watering systems:

The National Livestock and Poultry Learning Center - Small Farm Fact sheets - see fact sheets on Livestock Watering Systems and Electric Livestock Fencing.

Missouri NRCS Publications on Electric Fencing & Watering