Water Catchment Systems for Mobile and Permanent Farm Structures

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2009: $9,970.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Principal Investigator:


  • Animals: bees, poultry, swine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Animal Production: watering systems
  • Crop Production: irrigation
  • Education and Training: extension, focus group, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns
  • Natural Resources/Environment: indicators
  • Sustainable Communities: analysis of personal/family life, quality of life

    Proposal summary:

    The past two years were one’s of extreme drought in Alabama. Many farmers and ranchers were affected, with ponds and wells drying up, minimal grass and hay production, farmers selling their cattle herds, and even irrigated crops suffering from the lack of moisture. In January, 2008, almost the entire state of Alabama was still experiencing drought conditions. While this drought was extreme, expectations that fluctuating weather conditions will become normal mean that farmers and ranchers need to be prepared. Access to water will be an increasing problem; Alabama, Georgia, and Florida are already battling over shared watersheds. As water supplies become scarcer they will also become more expensive which will put a strain on an already-narrow profit margin for many farmers and ranchers. Establishing water catchment systems using existing structures on the farm can be a relatively low-cost option to capture rain during wet periods to utilize during dry periods. Like many small farms, ours has a number of permanent and mobile structures that can be used as catchment surfaces. These range in size from a 60 square foot gravity wagon cover to a 2400 square foot barn. The mobile structures can be used to catch water in strategic places around the farm for short-term use in rotational grazing systems and the permanent structures can be used for larger-scale catchment and storage. We will use existing structures on our farm to set up water catchment systems. The cost of establishment, water inputs and outputs from this system, and storage capacity requirements will be evaluated to see how the costs and benefits balance out in the end. This evaluation will be both on a farm scale and for each individual catchment system. We will measure the amount of water caught, the amount of storage needed to keep this water for future use, the amount of water used for livestock watering, hog wallows, and irrigation, and how that translates into a whole-farm water budget. Dr. Joe Brown at the University of Alabama and Dr. Cathy Sabota from Alabama A&M University will help in designing an appropriate data collection system; both have worked to develop appropriate water catchment systems for small farmers. We will use eight permanent and mobile structures: two mobile chicken coops, two mobile hog houses, the barn, a shed, the house, and the covered gravity wagon. The total square footage of these catchment areas is approximately 5600. These structures will demonstrate a variety of alternatives for water catchment, the cost to make the system work, and the cost and/or savings for the producer.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.