Water supply options for rural lifestyle properties
Case study - South Gippsland
Water plays a key role on rural lifestyle properties. For example water is needed for stock and human drinking water, in the household, fire fighting purposes, garden watering, weed spraying or for washing machinery.
Securing and distributing water for a property can be a complex task. Many factors need to be considered such as licensing requirements, water resources and water quality available on the property, environmental considerations, determining farm water requirements, as well as the distribution, water storage and pumping options.
This booklet has been developed to provide a practical example of the water supply options that are available to Kevin a lifestyle property owner, and the farm water planning considerations he went through to reach his final decision.
It is hoped this example will provide a starting point of some farm water principles and considerations for lifestyle property owners who are looking to secure water for their property.
Please be mindful that Kevin’s property is located in Gippsland, Victoria with a very high annual rainfall of 1003 millimetres per year. Therefore some of the water supply options presented in this booklet may not be relevant for other areas.
Each lifestyle property and owner’s situation is unique, so this case study is referenced throughout to provide further information and tools for lifestyle landholders to apply to their own situation.
Background planning for farm water
New property owner Kevin has built a home on 14 acres (5.6 hectares) in South Gippsland. Kevin has fenced out the creek as part of a revegetation program. However, this was the main drinking water supply for stock, so Kevin is now considering alternative water supply options for the property. Restricting stock access to the creek helps to improve water quality for downstream users and the environment. The annual average rainfall for this area is 1003mm/year.
This case study will consider four options to address the water supply needs of the property;
- Rainfall collected off roof into tank
- Catchment runoff into dam
- Pumping from creek to header tank
- Accessing groundwater
When considering the options Kevin will need to weigh up the benefits and risks of each option, and consider how to minimise these risks. It’s also important to be aware of the environmental and legislative requirements.
Unfenced dams and creeks can lead to stock degrading water quality.
Property water requirements
Kevin has assessed his water requirements by undertaking a water audit of his property. A water audit considers water requirements, as well as the potential supply of water and storage available on farm.
A water audit is the first step when planning farm water options. An Online Farm Water calculator is available at www.dpi.vic.gov.au/farmwatersolutions. This can also be done manually by referring to Agricultural Note: AG1406 – How much water do I need?’ to calculate your own particular water needs.
A water audit for Kevin’s property can be seen in Table 1. Kevin plans to buy 20 alpacas which will require a total of 43,800 litres per year of water. An additional 10,000 litres of water is required for fire-fighting and needs to be available at all times. The house is self sufficient for water with tanks collecting water off the roof.
When planning water needs for the property Kevin may also need to consider risks to the farm water supply. For example;
- How will the system cope in a drought? Is there a strategy to de-stock?
- Will the water system work if Kevin is away from the farm for an extended period of time? Will the system be easy for someone else to use?
- Is there a back up plan if a pipe bursts or pump breaks down?
- Will the water supply system cope if Kevin decides to expand his herd, or change stock type?
|Water required on-farm||Current water supply and storage||Potential water supply and storage||Other considerations|
|Alpacas||43,800 litres/ year||No supply or storage yet.||
|High quality water needed. Highest demand in summer.|
|Firefighting||10,000 litres/ year||No supply or storage yet.||Already adequate.||Peak demand summer. Quality not as important as stock drinking water.|
|House water||94,900 litres/ year||Approximately 128,250 litres/year from 135m² house roof. House is self sufficient for water. 45,000 litres of storage water tanks already in place.||Self sufficient. Tanks overflow regularly. Can possibly supplement the stock and fire-fighting requirements.|
Options to capture and store water
Option 1: Rainfall collected off roof into tank
One option Kevin is considering is harvesting rainfall falling on his 54m2 shed roof (9m x 6m). He is unsure if this volume will be sufficient to meet the stock drinking water needs and how this system will cope with drier seasonal conditions.
A benefit of using rainfall from shed rooves is that a licence is not required for the use of the water provided the water is stored in a tank (if the water is stored in a dam then licences may be required. See page 7 for more information) . Planning and/or building permits may also be required to construct sheds and/or water tanks (check with your local council). A benefit of using shed water is that it is generally of very high quality, suitable for stock drinking.
Runoff from a shed roof is more reliable than runoff into a dam, because 95 per cent of rain that falls onto the shed can be captured. With a dam the catchment initially needs enough rain to soak the soil before the water runs into the dam. There is also minimal evaporation from tanks, but evaporation can be quite significant with dams.
Will the shed supply enough water?
To answer Kevin’s question will the shed supply enough water it’s necessary to calculate the volume harvested and compare this with the volume of water the stock need. For example;
|Rainfall collected off roof 51,454 litres||_||Alpaca water requirement 43,800 litres||=||Deficit or Excess 7,654 litres excess|
The shed will adequately supply enough water provided there is sufficient storage (such as a water tank) to capture water during winter and supply the water in summer when the alpacas are drinking more. There will be an extra 7,654 litres a year provided ‘average’ rainfall falls. The rainfall figure can be changed to see how much water can be harvested in a variety of scenarios such as dry years. The Bureau of Meteorology provides climate data online for a range of sites across Australia see www.bom.gov.au/climate/data/
If water tanks are added to the shed, extra water can also be pumped from the house tanks as they overflow regularly and this will provide a backup supply.
How to calculate the volume of rainfall collected from a roof
Volume (litres) = Area (m2) x Rainfall (mm) x 0.95* *to account for evaporation/overflowing gutters Volume (litres) = 54m2 x 1003mm/year x 0.95 = 51,454 litres
Kevin can therefore expect in an average year to harvest 51,454 litres/year off his 54m2 shed.
What about a drought year?
In 2006, a drought year the property received 670mm of rainfall. The shed could supply approximately Volume (litres) = 54m2 x 670mm/year x 0.95 = 34,371 litres this is 9,429 litres short of the 43,800 litre requirement for the alpacas.
A drought strategy
As the total requirement for the alpacas is 43,800 litres Kevin will need a strategy to be able to supply the extra 9,429 litres of water for his stock.
This could include re-directing extra roof area’s into the water tank. By having extra storage within the water tank, water from wet years can be stored for use in drier years. Kevin could de-stock, or cart water. While considering these options Kevin will also need to ensure he still has 10,000 litres available at all times for fire-fighting.
Sheds can provide a reliable and good quality water supply
Options to capture and store water
What size tank is required?
Kevin is also wondering what size water tank he should put on the shed to provide enough storage to supply water all year for the alpacas.
When considering the size of a tank it’s important to consider;
- How to calculate the volume of rainfall collected from a roof (as calculated on page 5)
- How much water is being used from the tank, and when the greatest demand is for this water? (this can be considered by doing a monthly water balance – see below)
- How much room is there for a tank?
- What will it cost to get installed?
- What’s the optimum size to reduce risk but also balance with cost?
One way Kevin can investigate the size of the water tank is to look at a monthly water balance which uses monthly rainfall averages and seasonal stock drinking water requirements as per Table 2. For more information see Information Note: Using a monthly budget to size a rain water tank
Interpretation of the monthly water balance
The monthly water balance (as per Table 2) has started in May to allow the tank to fill over winter and spring as this is when there is more rain than what is needed by the alpaca’s.
Approximately 8000 litres is the most the tank will need to store across the year to supply the animals throughout summer and autumn. This can be calculated from the table by adding the deficit (seen in Table 2. as a negative value) between December and April when usage exceeds rainfall. A tank of 15,000 litres would capture all the excess water in winter/spring. This can be seen as the largest cumulative storage figure in November.
A 10,000 litre tank would only allow 2 months back up in summer if it didn’t rain. Kevin decided that he is more comfortable with 4 months of back up and so a 22,500 litre tank would be more suitable.
Kevin would also need to allow an extra 10,000 litres of water which will always be in the water tank as a back up in the event of a fire. Consequently the ideal tank size would be approximately 30,000 litres. The static storage which is required for the CFA can be achieved by plumbing the stock water outlet 10,000 litres above the bottom of the tank.
A monthly analysis can also be undertaken using less than average rainfall figures to see how the water supply would cope in a drought. If there is a drought strategy to de-stock, then water supply in dry years might not be as crucial.
Picture of water tank configuration to cater for 10,000 litres of static storage for fire fighting purposes.
|Average Monthly Rainfall (mm)||91.9||95.5||100.5||102.1||104.9||97.8||83.3||77.3||57.5||49.9||60.9||77.6||999.2|
|Monthly yield (litres)||4,714||4,899||5,155||5,237||53,81||5,017||4,273||3,965||2,950||2,560||3,124||3,981||51,259|
|Monthly usage (litres)||4,380||2,190||2,190||2,190||2,920||2,920||2,920||5,110||5,110||5,110||4,380||4,380||43,800|
|Deficit/ Surplus (litres)||334||2,709||2,965||3,047||2,461||2,097||1,353||-1,144||-2,160||-2,550||-1,256||-399||7,459|
|Cumulative storage (litres)||334||3,043||6,009||9,057||11,518||13,615||14,969||13,82 4||11,664||9,114||7,858||7,459|
Option 2: Catchment runoff into dam
Construction of a new dam is also a possibility for stock drinking water. However, Kevin is concerned about the potential impact a dam might have on downstream users and the environment such as changed creek flows which can affect biodiversity and opportunities for movement of species dependent on the creeks, and can result in less water flowing into wetlands.
Kevin is also uncertain about the regulations and what licences might be required for a dam. He has a potential dam site in mind, but is wondering if it will hold and capture enough water to meet his needs. New or altered dams constructed on properties in rural residential zones or if the property is less then 8 hectares need to be registered with the Rural Water Corporation. A licence is also required to construct or alter a dam on a waterway. Kevin will need to check with his Rural Water Corporation in the early stages of planning.
Before Kevin can consider if a dam is suitable he will need to collect the following information (also see Further Information at the back of this publication);
- Catchment area for potential dam site. This is to ensure that the area up from the dam site will catch enough water to reliably fill the dam. See Information Note AG1401: Finding a dam site, and Using Topographical Maps (2009)
- Soil type needs to be suitable for dam construction so that it holds water and is safe. See Information Note: AG1397: Soil materials for farm dam construction.
- Legal requirements – The Rural Water Corporation should be consulted prior to building a dam.
- Dam size – Professional advice should be sought prior to building a dam. This is to allow extra volume to account for evaporation, seepage, storage reliability, dam health reserve and for it to be properly engineered with a spillway.
- Location of dam—will need to be considered in conjunction with the earth mover to gain good value for money.
How much water can be captured from paddock runoff into the dam?
Kevin did some background research and identified a potential dam site that had a 1 hectare catchment area inside his property boundary. To estimate your own catchment area refer to Further Information section in booklet—Using Topographic Maps (2009).
Catchment runoff depends upon many factors such as soil type, vegetation cover, property location, area of the catchment and rainfall.
For Kevin’s situation which includes a heavy soil with perennial pasture cover and an annual rainfall of 1003mm/ year Kevin can expect approximately 10 per cent of the rain that falls to run into the dam (See Information Note: Ag1401: Finding a dam site). Over a year the 1 hectare catchment could potentially supply approximately 1,000,000 litres of water (1 Megalitre).
Photo below: Aerial maps with contour lines can be used to determine the catchment areas. Where the contour lines are closest together indicates the direction the water will flow.
Losses from dams
Shallow dams can suffer from high evaporative losses over summer.
Evaporative losses and seepage from farm dams can reduce the volume of water in the dam, often when it’s needed most in summer. A single deeper dam will have less evaporation than multiple smaller dams as they have a larger surface area. Seepage from dams is very variable (10% of the volume of the dam is a very rough figure to account for it).
Example: For two dams of the same volume (one megalitre) in South Gippsland with an evaporation rate of 1200mm/year:
- A deep dam with the dimensions of 25m x 20m x 4m can lose approximately 40% of volume in evaporation.
- A shallow dam with the dimensions of 40m x 30m x 1m can lose approximately 96% of its volume in evaporation.
Options to capture and store water
Option 3: Pumping from creek to header tank
Kevin also has considered pumping from the creek to a header tank and then gravity feeding to troughs to supply the alpacas with water. A header tank uses gravity to provide water supply under pressure. Header tanks are typically located on a higher location than the water troughs.
Kevin spoke to his Water Corporation (Southern Rural Water) and discovered that because he owns both sides of the creek and the waterway is not on crown land (no river frontage), he doesn’t need a licence to use this water for his stock and domestic purposes. If Kevin was accessing water off his property that he didn’t own or occupy he would require a licence.
Kevin is hesitant about this option, as the creek that runs through the property is unreliable in summer. Consequently, this option would mean that the header tank would need to have extra storage to compensate for the unreliability of the creek. Kevin would still like to have four months’ worth of storage (a 22,500L tank) in case the creek runs dry for an extended period of time or if the water quality declines.
This option would also require a pump to get the water from the creek to the tank. Another concern is that there is no power at the creek. Consequently, Kevin will also need to consider running electricity to the pumping site, or a windmill, fuel (petrol/diesel) pump, solar pump or air well pump.
Option 4: Accessing groundwater
The final option Kevin is considering is construction of a bore. Before Kevin can consider this as an option he needs to initially determine if there is groundwater available on his property and at what depth, the yield and quality.
He is concerned that there might not be enough groundwater available, and the potential impact using groundwater will have on existing neighbours near by.
How do you investigate if there is groundwater available?
To discuss the likelihood of finding water and the quality Kevin can speak to local drilling contractors and neighbours. If this is favourable, he will need to seek professional advice from a groundwater consultant for this information as well as advice about the construction method and the type of bore. These specialists are listed in the White and Yellow Pages under Engineers or Hydrogeologists. If Kevin is located in Southern Rural Water’s jurisdiction he can look up on their website www.srw.com.au at a groundwater atlas which includes groundwater maps.
Licensing of bores
Water tank provides extra storage to provide back up if the creek goes dry.
A groundwater bore
The Rural Water Corporation can also provide Kevin with information about licensing requirements, and groundwater information. For example, a bore construction licence is required to construct the bore. A licence to use the water may also be needed if it’s being used for anything other than for stock and domestic purposes.
Drilling a bore
Contact the Australian Drilling Industry Association on (03) 9770 4000 or visit their website www.adja.com.au for a listing of Victorian, qualified, licenced drillers.
Water quality of the bore
The water quality of the bore should be assessed to ensure it’s suitable for stock drinking. For further information please see the Department of Environment and Primary Industries Information Note (2004) Testing groundwater quality.
A storage tank will still be required, to allow for water storage in the event that the pump breaks down. Ideally this should be for about 3 to 5 days of storage. For Kevin this would mean installing an 800 litre tank.
Kevin would like his water supply system to be reticulated as it will allow more flexibility to rotate the grazing between paddocks. He also feels that “a reticulated water supply will help to maintain water quality, which would be better for stock.” Kevin understands that poor water quality has the potential to reduce animal production and health.
When considering reticulation requirements such as pumps and pipes, it’s important to consult an irrigation specialist or plumber. The following information is helpful for the irrigation specialist or plumber.
A map including the following points:
- Contours (elevation heights)
- Future trough locations and pipe locations and distances
- Peak flow rate needed at each trough
- Header tank location (if gravity fed system)
- Power source location or preferred method of pumping
- Location of water source/s
The peak flow rate should be calculated to determine the peak flow of water needed at a water trough. This is the volume of water that the stock can drink in summer over four hours.
Trough location, size and material should be considered. Kevin plans to have three concrete troughs (one in each paddock). Please refer to Piping It an on-farm water reticulation guide by GWMWater.
Gravity fed system
A gravity fed system is ideal because it is independent of power failures, and is simple and easy to operate and maintain with no on-going pump maintenance. However this type of system relies on having the water supply located above where the water is needed.
Alternatively a header tank can also be used where the water is pumped to a storage tank and then gravity feeds the reticulation system. This header tank can act as a buffer in case there is a problem with pumps or the water source.
If water needs to be pumped to troughs there will be the cost of laying the power cable to the pump site, and/or a pumping device such as a fuel pump, solar pump, air-well pump or windmill and the associated maintenance required. The type of pump selected needs to be carefully matched to the water supply type, pumping distance, volume and height. For example, different pumps are needed for surface and groundwater water sources.
If the power source is close to the water source, this is usually the most common and cost effective method of pumping water. Electric pumps are relatively cheap and have few moving parts and can be started by flicking a switch.
Petrol and Diesel pumps
Petrol and diesel pumps can provide a good back up option or short-term pumping solution. They can be quite labour intensive and need refuelling to operate. There is the on-going cost of the fuel too.
Solar pumps are often used when there is no mains power and supervision of a pump isn’t practical. A solar system requires careful planning and expert advice. A solar system tends to match demand for water when stock need it most (when sunny—better than a windmill) and has few on-going running costs. They have a high initial capital cost.
Example of a solar water pump
A windmill may have high initial capital costs, with few ongoing running costs. The amount of power (water) a windmill can supply depends upon wind-speed at the site and tower height. The pump needs to match the wind resource and site conditions. Windmills require regular inspection and require on-going maintenance. Windmills don’t pump water unless there is wind, so require a storage tank as a back up when there is no wind.
Direct air displacement pumps
Direct air displacement pumps are driven by compressed air from a compressor which is connected to mains power. They are often used when mains electricity is a long distance away from the water source. Twelve millimetre poly pipe is laid to transport compressed air which supplies the pump with air which is used to pump the water. The poly pipe is cheaper than running the power cable.
The four options in summary
|Option||Benefits||Limitations||Other considerations||Cost to Kevin|
|Rainfall collected off roof into tank||
Provides good quality water.
Limited losses to evaporation.
No water licence required for use of water.
Kevin’s shed site means able to gravity feed troughs.
Low rainfall areas will have a higher cost/litre of water harvested.
Fittings and valves need to be maintained to reduce leakage.
Council permit may be required for sheds/ water tank.
If a new shed consider location to allow gravity feeding water to troughs.
Potential opportunities exist in un-tanked roofed areas, rooves without gutters and tanks that overflow regularly.
Cost of 22, 500L tank. Cost of shed.
Cost of tank site sand/ concrete or levelling.
Cost of reticulation – pipes and troughs and trenching.
|Catchment runoff into dam||
Can provide reliable water supply for stock if stock have access to dam (this may degrade water quality though).
Can provide larger storage volumes than tanks so may provide extra storage for fire fighting.
Potential impact on downstream users.
High evaporative losses when demand is highest for water.
Water can also be lost due to seepage.
Dams require regular on-going maintenance.
More susceptible to water quality issues such as algal blooms than tank water.
Dams should be fenced to avoid contamination.
Should seek professional advice for dam design.
May require a licence to construct and also use the water, check with;
Rural Water Corporation.
Local Catchment Management Authority (if undertaking works on waterway).
Cost to seek advice regarding dam design.
Cost of excavating dam. Cost of reticulation – pipes and troughs.
Pumping of dam if not able to gravity feed the troughs. Cost of power/pump if not gravity.
Cost of reticulation if the dam is fenced off.
|Pumping from creek to header tank||No physical excavation required .||
Susceptible to poor water quality (depending upon upstream conditions).
Water supply is unreliable so storage will be required such as a back up tank.
A licence may be required if you are pumping from a waterway for stock and domestic purposes, check with;
Rural Water Corporation.
Local Catchment Management Authority (if undertaking works on waterway).
Cost of pump/ power.
On-going cost of pumping if fuel pump.
Cost of tank.
Cost of reticulation.
|Accessing Groundwater||Some groundwater systems may be less influenced by seasonal variations than surface water.||
A lot of initial research should be undertaken into the groundwater availability and quality.
Still require storage tank or back up pump.
|A bore construction licence is required to construct a bore, contact your Rural Water Corporation.||
Cost of groundwater investigation.
Cost of groundwater drilling.
Cost of power/pump.
Ongoing pumping cost.
Cost of storage tank (in this case 800L).
Cost of bore construction licence.
Cost of reticulation.
Kevin considered the four options by talking to neighbours, family and friends about their experiences with their water supply situation. His decision also considered cost, time, labour, practical experience, personal history and his preferences.
Kevin ultimately decided on Option 1: rainfall collected off roof into tank. With this option the shed roof area is able to supply enough high quality rainwater in an average year. Also the internal storage space provided by the shed made it an attractive option. The shed will also add to the capital value of the property.
A fair bit of investigating is also required before Kevin would be comfortable with Option 2: catchment runoff into a dam. This includes determining if the soils would hold water and if the catchment would be big enough to capture enough water. Kevin is also concerned about the volume of water that would evaporate out of the dam and amount of space that he would need to put aside to create the dam.
Kevin is also quite aware that farm dams need regular maintenance to make sure they continue to hold water for a long time. Dams can also create social tensions between neighbours when they cause surface water flow changes.
Option 1: rainfall collected off roof into tank option might cost more than Option 3: pumping directly from the creek to header tank, but there won’t be the on-going cost of fuel for pumping and the on-going refuelling and starting of the pump. This should be considered especially if fuel becomes more expensive into the future.
The other alternatives such as air-well, solar and windmill pumping or running electricity were starting to become equally or more expensive than a gravity fed rainwater option. The water quality from the creek has the potential to be poorer than the rainfall harvested from the roof.
Option 4; accessing groundwater is an option for Kevin, but it still requires a fair bit of investigation. Licensing and cost to install it also need to be considered and potentially wouldn’t guarantee supply or quality.
Regardless of the option Kevin chose it’s important to consider a back up plan for the system in case a pump breaks down, a valve breaks or if it doesn’t rain.
To reduce the risk of running out of water Kevin will use good quality fittings and valves, obtain independent advice regarding pipe sizing, will direct additional roof runoff such as the wood shed into the water tanks to further increase reliability and have a back up fire-fighting pump which can be used to pump directly from the creek if necessary. Kevin also plans to pump from the house tanks, when they are overflowing up to the shed tanks.
Are you considering water supply options?
If you are thinking of a new system for your own property the first step is to contact your Rural Water Corporation to double check what your legal requirements are. To find your Rural Water Corporation see www.water.vic.gov.au search ‘Water Corporations’
Farm Water Solutions—Department of Environment and Primary Industries
Farm Water Planning resources and Online Farm Water calculator can be found at; www.dpi.vic.gov.au/farmwatersolutions
Department of Environment and Primary Industries Information Notes
- AG1406: How much water do I need?
- AG1397: Soil materials for farm dam construction
- AG1401: Finding a dam site
- In production: Using a monthly budget to size a rain water tank.
All Information Notes are located at www.dpi.vic.gov.au
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
- What is groundwater?
- Groundwater in Victoria
- Can I become a groundwater user?
Groundwater Notes are located at www.water.vic.gov.au/environment/groundwater/news-and-info
Department of Environment and Resource Management— Queensland Government
Using Topographic maps, 2009
This is a useful resource to assist with calculating catchment areas www.derm.qld.gov.au/
Caris, R (2005), Piping it—On farm reticulation guide, Publication available at;
Queensland Murray Darling Committee
Reilly, K (2007) Maximise stock performance with improved water quality, Available at www.qmdc.org.au/module/documents/download/31
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
Testing groundwater quality Information Note: 2004 http://www.aquariusdrilling.com.au
Southern Rural Water’s groundwater maps
These maps provide a very broad indication of groundwater resources in southern Victoria www.srw.com.au search ‘groundwater maps’
Australian Drillers Industry Association (ADIA)
All drilling contractors must hold a current Victorian Drillers Licence issued by the Victorian Drillers Licensing Board. Their level of qualification determines the type of bores they can drill. For more information phone the Australian Drilling Industry Association on (03) 9770 4000 or visit their website www.adia.com.au
Rural water corporations
Rural Water Corporations manage rural water. They deliver water to irrigators in irrigation districts, harvest bulk water for rural and urban use, and licence and monitor extractions from most surface and groundwater systems. They also licence the construction of farm dams and groundwater bores across the region.
For a list of all Victorian Water Corporations go to www.water.vic.gov.au search ‘water corporations’
Catchment management authorities
Catchment management authorities (CMAs) are responsible for catchment and waterway management. Contact your regional CMA to obtain a works on waterways permit, prior to undertaking any earthmoving or construction in and around a waterway.
For a list of catchment management authorities go to www.water.vic.gov.au search ‘catchment management authority’
Authored by Benita Kelsall from the Victorian Department of Environment and Primary Industries. The author gratefully acknowledges the contribution from Chris Hughes of Southern Rural Water and the DPI Farm Water Solutions project team, specifically Annieka Paridaen, Rachael Ward and Rod Eldridge.
If you would like to receive this information/publication in an accessible format (such as large print or audio) please call the Customer Service Centre on: 136 186, TTY: 1800 122 969, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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