Grazing/Water Supply Erosion Control
Penn Soil Resource Conservation and Development
Basin Program Funds:
Controlling livestock access to streams by fencing and stream crossings helps
control stream bank erosion but does not address the need to water livestock.
Providing adequate water away from streams sites with adequate electricity is
a key concern. Ram pumps, which use falling water to push water up hill, offer
a low-cost solution where falling water is available. However the Lake Erie
basin is too flat to utilize ram technology. A potential solution may be solar
Erie and Crawford counties contain all of Pennsylvania's Lake Erie watershed.
Dairying is one of the principal agricultural enterprises in the drainage area
and thus a major contributor to agricultural nonpoint source pollution through
milk house and barnyard waste, livestock stream access, nutrients, and pesticides.
Allowing cattle access to water directly in streams contributes to a significant
percentage of nonpoint sources. While restricting cattle access reduces pollution,
it creates a further problem of how to water the livestock, especially in areas
which are not easily reached by electricity.
Hydraulic ram pumps generate power using falling water to push water uphill
to a watering trough. While this has proven to be an inexpensive, and effective
solution, the flat topography of the Lake Erie watershed does not lend itself
to this solution. One potential solution is solar power. Contemporary systems
can be installed for less than $1,500.00. They are reliable, requiring little
maintenance with a relatively long life span (from 20 to 40 years) and can pump
enough water for any size herd. In addition to delivering water to cattle away
from sensitive areas, such as stream banks, solar pumps can also distribute
water to all parts of a pasture and ensure improved forage quality, herd health,
Penn RC&D hired a project technician/consultant who researched available solar
powered equipment and conducted a search for potential participant farmers.
Ten prospective farm sites were targeted and prioritized within Crawford County's
Lake Erie watershed. In conjunction with the US Department of Agriculture –
Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) a comprehensive barnyard management
plan was developed for one volunteer farmer. The plan included a solar pump
system which provided an alternative drinking water source for cattle, restored
riparian areas, and limited nutrient runoff.
The installation of a solar powered watering system was completed on the volunteer
farm. The system works well in full sunlight. During cloudy weather or afternoons
when the solar panel is not in direct line with the sun, the pump does not pump
enough water. Also, during the 1998 drought, the source spring went dry and
the system was out of operation until the water returned. An important issue,
not addressed as part of this erosion control project, is water quality for
the herd. Previously, with direct access to the stream, the cattle were exposed
to waterborne pathogens. That possibility is now substantially curtailed, given
the new source of water. Thirty farmers and elected officials toured the site
during a council meeting.
Contact: Harvey Pinkerton, (814) 226-6118