Innovative Watering Station is a Game Changer
Buddy Wilkins raises about 100 sheep, and occasionally cattle, on 65 acres in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. He's already doing his part to protect clean water, several years ago planting trees and fencing off a stream from livestock.
But after installing the fence, he couldn't graze livestock in parts of a pasture across the stream because of limited drinking water for the animals. It would have been very difficult to pump more water there, requiring running electricity and water lines through rocky soil and across the stream. So, Wilkins, who also has decades of experience as an engineer, looked to solar power.
Wilkins is one of two Virginia farmers who this year tried out an inventive solar livestock watering station that CBF designed and built. (See video below.) The mobile system uses the sun's energy to pump water from a spring-fed pond on Wilkins' property to tanks that fill a trough in the pasture. By making drinking water easily available, this imaginative system complements farm practices that are good for clean water, like rotational grazing and stream fencing. "There are places where you don't have any access to electricity, and there are really no good alternatives if you're going to fence livestock out of streams," Wilkins said.
Mounted on a trailer, the mobile watering system can be moved from field to field or farm to farm—a benefit for farmers who lease land or hope to graze animals in new areas. "The mobile watering station can be a real game changer," said CBF Watershed Restoration Scientist Matt Kowalski. "It's an affordable, portable, off-the-grid solution for getting water to livestock. Plus, keeping livestock out of ponds and streams is good for local waterways."
CBF has been working with Virginia Cooperative Extension to promote solar options. While Wilkins had been considering a solar powered watering system for a while, the CBF unit finally gave him confidence that this is a dependable solution. "It was a proof of concept," he said.
Though he's returning the CBF unit so a new farmer can give it a trial run, Wilkins is now building his own solar watering system. For him, the advantages go well beyond the environment.
Hampton Roads Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation