Categories: Articles, Stock and game farmingPublished On: 11th May 2023

Game ranching part 2: Placement of watering points

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“With clever management a natural water source can be used sustainably throughout the year, depending on whether the number of game species is limited, and the drinking points are well distributed,” says Ken Coetzee of Conservation Management Services in George in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

The incorrect placement of water points can lead to overgrazing, bush encroachment, and soil erosion. It can also have a negative effect on shy species that do not like the company of other species when they drink. Ideally, watering points must provide enough water to be sustainable. The preferences of the species must be kept in mind, the water must be permanent and controllable, the quality must be acceptable, and wastage must be minimised. Sufficient shelter, without providing a hideout for predators, must be available.

The placement of watering points should not lead to overgrazing, be as natural as possible, and be accessible for ecotourism. For extensive game farming practices, it is important to use the most natural water source, whether it is a spring, a wetland, or a stream. For intensive farming, water must be supplied in drinking troughs that are regularly filled, cleaned, and maintained.

Three principles can be used as a guideline:

• Prevent game from trampling the area surrounding the natural water source such as the eye of a spring, a wetland, or a riverbank;

• Place watering points where drinking animals will not destroy sensitive habitats or vegetation cover;

• Make provision for smaller game, such as small antelopes, rabbits, tortoises, and birds to drink safely.

The placement of artificial watering points must keep environmental aspects in mind, such as the sensitivity of the veld between the water points to prevent the erosion of game paths, the availability of seasonal pans of water, and the watering needs of the different game species.

Ken says: “Often a network of watering points is positioned without taking in the landscape into consideration. Clever placement will avoid cutting off the habitat that is dependent on the water from the source.”

Keep in mind when planning watering points

• Avoid areas on a slope where game can trample the area around the watering point, causing the water to run off and cause erosion;

• Do not place a watering point under a tree where leaves, pods, insects, and bird droppings can contaminate the water;

• Do not place the watering point in an overgrown area – most game

prefer an open site where they can see an approaching predator;

• Do not place it on a rocky slope, as most animals dislike walking on a smooth, hard surface;

• Place watering points along a stream lower down the valley where the vegetation, such as grassy patch, will not easily be trampled;

• Do not place the watering point in the middle of a stream, because it will silt up or fill up with vegetation when the waterway is in flood;

• Do not place it where the earth will be trampled to dust, rather place it on well-drained sand or gravel;

• Keep it away from areas where rare and endangered plant species occur, such as patches of quartzite where succulents grow;

• Do not place it in areas that are already overgrazed and trampled.

Protect natural water sources


Protect the eye of the spring by building a simple protective structure of stones or bricks over, it or fence it off to prevent game from trampling it. Relay the water by means of a pipe to a nearby place where game can drink


In natural waterways, such as rivers and streams, provide drinking places where the riverbank safely permits it. However, where the water is accessible, it can cause many game species to congregate there and trample the bank. When the river is in flood, it can wash away part of the riverbank and the adjacent veld.

Repair a riverbank in time to prevent erosion by:

• Fencing off that part of the riverbank to force game to drink elsewhere – the fence must keep out animals that can crawl or dig underneath or jump over it

• Sloping a steep riverbank to help animals reach the water

• Diverting the water away from the river to where game can drink without destroying the riverbank

• Using gabions or groynes to divert the water away from the eroded riverbank

Using groundwater

Groundwater can be utilised for game by means of a borehole in a suitable place and providing it with a pump that will bring water to the surface.

Different options exist: Windmills: The size of the wheel of the windmill will depend on the depth of the borehole and the quantity of water that must be brought to the surface, as well as the distance the water must be pumped and at what incline, and the power of the prevailing wind. As with a windmill, a solar pump provides clean energy.

The electric pump is powered by means of solar panels and provides enough water for game, even on a cloudy day. The pump and panels are light enough to move between watering points. Electric pumps are environmentally friendly and work well where a lot of water is needed for crops, but an expensive electrical connection is needed. Pumps powered with diesel or petrol are expensive, but necessary where a large quantity of water must be pumped over a large distance and uphill. Unfortunately, it is not very environmentally friendly as it releases toxic fumes into the atmosphere, leaks can end up in the groundwater, it is noisy, and the pumps must be serviced regularly.

Rainwater harvesting

The harvesting of rainwater is essential where no surface water occurs, where it is too expensive to pump groundwater, or where fences keep game away from watering points.

Storage tank

Rainwater can be harvested from any level surface with a slight decline, whether a rocky slope or a structure. Rainwater flowing downhill is collected in a storage tank and piped to a watering point. The volume of water in the receiving trough can be regulated by means of a ball valve.

“The drier the area, the bigger the volume of the storage tanks in order to store enough rainwater to last the game throughout the dry season,” explains Ken. A low wall surrounding the rocky slope can be used to direct the water to a gutter which leads the water to a pipe that flows into the tank. A concrete slab can be installed on which to collect the rainwater, or a thick layer of plastic sheeting on gravel will have the same effect, but heavy animals will damage the plastic.

Inexpensive tank mould

A mould made of sheets of corrugated iron that is bolted in place can be used again and again to build a tank. The mould is covered with chicken wire on the outside before it is plastered with cement. Once the cement is dry, the mould is removed, and the inside of the tank is plastered. A domed roof will prevent the water from evaporating.

Earthen dams

The same volume of water that flowed down the stream before the dam was constructed, must be released after the dam has been built. A deep earthen dam can be home to hippos, while the banks covered with natural vegetation such as reeds and bulrushes, will provide the ideal habitat for waders, turtles, and numerous other wildlife species.

Contact details Contact Ken Coetzee at 076-227- 5056 or or visit the website at for more information, or to get a copy of his book


Gouws, A. (2021) Water vir wild: gehalte is net so belangrik soos beskikbaarheid. Agri Orbit/Veeplaas

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