Sonoma Mountain Institute’s Water Distribution System

In 2020 based on our carbon farm plan that was established with the local Sonoma County Resource in Conservation District we were alerted to a grant funding opportunity based on having that plan. There were special funds allocated to people that had these plans in place to support more sustainable grazing infrastructure. We applied for a water distribution system to have better managed grazing and we secured and were awarded the grant for $45,000.

The grant established over 8,500 linear feet of water distribution around the ranch as well as 15000 gallons of storage. In addition, the grant covered 6 water trough locations that could water both wild animals and Cattle. We also incorporated into the design fire hose suppression access to the water system so that fire hoses could be hooked up at any of the locations in order to fight fires in the future. The materials chosen for distribution were 2 inch weldable polyethylene pipe which is a cutting-edge material in plumbing right now. In a location that is located next to a fault line the material actually can stretch rather than break and the joints which are welded are stronger than the pipe itself. It has the benefit of being able to be plowed in with a bulldozer so no open trench was ripped in the installation of the pipe.

Additionally, extremely lightweight but large-capacity aluminum wildlife and cattle troughs were installed from a company that specializes in these types of troughs from Oregon. Each trough has wildlife access and escape ramps for small critters. The entire system was plumbed above ground in galvanized pipe so that it could withstand future fires.

Given that the grant put the distribution of water 500 ft away from the barn we decided to take the opportunity to build out rainwater collection at the barn that could piggyback on the grant-funded infrastructure. We installed an additional catchment at the barn of 10,000 gallons. This catchment could then be pumped back through the distribution system that was Grant funded and installed. The rain water is pumped up to the central storage tanks on the hill above the pond from the barn and the overflow we designed at those storage tanks runs back into the large pond. Essentially the rainwater catchment system is designed to pump back through the water distribution system and overflow into the pond.

For every inch of rain water we get in Sonoma the barn rainwater collection system captures about 11,000 gallons. In an average year that barn will collect around 300,000 gallons of water and put it in the pond. That is about twice the annual demand of the cattle on site during the grazing here. Essentially, the rain water collection system provides double the annual need of the cattle and still helps top off the pond.

Overall, the entire system is going to be of great help to the management team at Sonoma Mountain Institute. It provides better access of water to wildlife and more defensible fire fighting positions. It also provides much more management flexibility to be able to better distribute the cattle around the ranch. It will save the management team a ton of time and effort and produce better results all around. It’s been a great project and we’re glad to have it completed.

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