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- Proper spring development involves protecting both the spring and its water quality from environmental damage and contamination, as well as improving access to the water for all its intended uses.
- Springs are less costly to develop than wells and dugouts. However, before a spring is developed, it is essential to check both the quantity and quality of the spring water because springs are highly susceptible to contamination and seasonal changes in flow rate.
- A spring or seep occurs when groundwater emerges naturally on the earth's surface by either gravity or artesian pressure. Springs commonly occur along hillsides and in low areas where porous soils or fractured rock formations allow water to flow onto the ground surface. Springs can occur at a single point or over a large area, called a seep. A slow hillside seep or trickle where no visible water flow is observed should not be considered a true spring.
- To be considered worthwhile for development, a spring should have a year-round flow of at least a one-gallon per minute. The springs located on hillsides often have sufficient slope to deliver water to the location where it is used. This configuration is inexpensive as there are no electricity or pump costs. Springs developed in low areas generally require a source of power and a pump to lift the water to its point of use.
- The key to successful development is to ensure there is adequate water flow and water quality for the intended purpose. Test the flow rate of the spring to ensure the flow rate is at least one-gallon per minute and that the water flows year-round. The flow rate can be checked by laying a piece of pipe on the ground where the water is flowing. Place sand bags to build a small dam over and around the pipe. When the water is flowing through the pipe lay a heavy duty plastic bag on the ground over the end of the pipe. Clamp the bag over the end of the pipe with your hand for 1 minute. After a minute, measure how much water has collected in the bag.
- Test the water quality by taking a water sample and sending it to a laboratory for water analysis.
- Two basic types of designs are used for spring developments. One design is for low areas and the other for hillsides.
- For summer livestock watering, the simplest method of spring development on hillsides is to fence off the livestock from the spring area and run the water through a pipe downslope into a watering trough. This approach reduces the risk of spring contamination and livestock getting stuck around the spring.
- For springs in low areas, a small reservoir is dug beside or in the spring that holds from a one-day to a one-week supply of water. The reservoir is then fenced and water pumped to a trough for the livestock.
- For year-round use, the spring development must be protected from freezing. For hillside springs, intercepting the spring flow below ground and upslope from where it reaches the surface can eliminate contamination and most freezing problems.
- When harnessed properly, springs can be a reliable asset to any livestock operation. Consult appropriate expertise before beginning any spring development project. Every spring is unique and will require a different way of development. By utilizing others expertise, a spring can provide excellent water.
- Do not over develop a spring by increasing the flow to a higher rate than is needed. This can waste the resource and in some cases empty the formation resulting in permanent loss in spring capacity.
- Protect the area around the drinking trough, to keep it from becoming a mud hole. Concrete pads, railroad tie bases, poly-grid/gravel pads etc. are worth the investment.
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