Getting “High Elevation” Water to Cattle !

Bob Marcer and his son Lance ranch in the East Kootenays, south east of Cranbrook. They have a range area near Newgate, BC that is forested with ample grass for grazing but is perched above Gold Creek such that cattle cannot access it for drinking water (or if they do, they don’t want to climb back up!). If water could be supplied in a couple of troughs, 60 or more cows could graze there for about a month – but this is a big IF as the lift from the creek is 150 metres (500 feet)! And like many BC rangelands, energy choices to power a pump are limited.

Cattle are somewhat amazing animals when it comes to a food source for humans. With its digestive abilities a cow will provide us with a high quality protein source from grasses or similar vegetation. It is even more amazing when we consider that much of the growth period of beef cattle occurs from rangeland grasses on land we could likely grow little else in the way of our food.

But grass alone is not a full diet – water is also needed. It is this grass / water combination that a cattleman must provide and that can be a challenge in some dry Southern Interior rangelands of BC. It often is the lack of, poor distribution of, or, as on the Marcer site, inaccessible livestock water that limits the grazing potential on many productive rangelands. On the Marcers range, steep terrain separates the ample water of Gold Creek from the grass.

In some cases, a bit of engineering may provide the solution – engineering in the form of pumps that can be powered by energy found right at the grazing site. A number of options are practical but any one grazing site likely will not have the energy source for all of them. It comes down to matching the site energy options with pump options.

Gravity is often at the top of the energy-choice list (if there is appropriate site terrain) as it is constant, reliable, and “free”. A flow of water can drive an in-stream pump, can be used to create water hammer to drive a hydraulic ram pump, or can be piped to far-flung lower areas.

Ram pumps are driven by gravity water flow. A recent pump design that has been demonstrated in BC uses a modified design of the traditional ram pump. With small elevation falls and high volume drive water flows, high outputs are possible. Made in Australia, it is called the Glockemann pump.

As with all hydraulic ram pumps, the Glockemann Pump creates a pressure rise in a falling column of water by alternately opening and closing the column to free flow. Each time the water flow is shut off (quickly) a pressure rise is used to pump a small volume of water up to the water trough. The excess drive water is “wasted” and returns to the watercourse.

The unique design of the Glockemann is that the pressure rise works against a rubber diaphragm that is connected to a piston in a cylinder. With each pressure rise and fall the diaphragm strokes the piston through a cycle, pumping water. As is typical with other ram pumps, the Glockemann has a pumping cycle of 30 to 50 strokes per minute.

Changes in output of this pump are achieved by changing:

  • drive water supply – different elevation falls or drive pipe diameters (water volume) provide a range of drive energy
  • cylinder bore / piston size – diameters from 35mm to 124mm (1 3/8 in to 5 in) pump various volumes and lifts

As with all pumps, drive energy is transformed into output energy that equals flow times lift. More lift means less volume, or more volume means less lift (varying only with efficiency). If more drive energy is available, more output is possible.

For example with the Glockemann pump:

  • with a drive head of 0.6m (2 ft) it will pump 6,450 litres (1,700 US gal) a day up 10m (33 ft) with as drive supply of 4 L per sec (63 US gpm) using a 100mm (4 in) drive pipe
  • with a drive head of 1.6m (5.2 ft) it will pump 3150 litres (830 US gal) a day up 150m (490 ft) with 8 L/s (130 USgpm) using a 150mm (6 in) drive pipe

Note that the second system pumps ½ the water up 15x the lift but needs almost 3x the fall using 2x the drive water compared to the first system.

Complete pump information is available from the BC importer, Canuk Sales at 877-748-3048 or

An outline of this pump, requirements, and other details including pictures of the Marcer site are outlined in the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands factsheet # 590.305-10,  Using A Modified Hydraulic Ram To Pump Livestock Water , which is available at the Resource Management Branch publications website.

The Factsheet outlines the pump installation project on the Marcer range that has the following conditions:

  •  a stainless screen intake in the gravel bed of Gold Creek
  •  140m (600 ft) of 150mm (6 in) steel pipe falling 0.3m (1 ft) for the drive water supply – required length to get the fall to the pump due to the low stream gradient (1.25%)      – it highlights one of the restrictive site factors of all ram pumps – higher gradient sites require less drive pipe to achieve the proper fall to the pump
  • a surge tank to receive the drive water
  • 15m (50 ft) of 150mm steel pipe falling 1.6m (5.2 ft) for the drive pipe from the surge tank to the pump
  • a Glockemann model 320 Oasis pump installed along Gold Creek
  • a lift of 154m (505 ft) with a pipeline length of 475m (1550 ft)
  • high pressure hose and steel pipe is used for the lower (high pressure) end of the delivery pipe
  • a 3,000 litre storage tank at the top of the system stores water when the troughs are filled
  • two, 1,200 litre water troughs
  • 60 to 75 cows are watered in the spring

During the three years of use at this high lift some important points were learnt:

  • as with any stream intake, keeping debris from plugging the intake screen is important
  • loss of pump prime can lead to diaphragm failure, and the best way to avoid prime loss is to semi-submerge the pump in the stream
  • the delivery line should be filled prior to starting the pump as pump operation when the line is empty (nil to low head) is different than when it is operating at the sites full head – the pump will be difficult to adjust as the head changes as the line fills
  • install check valve(s) in the delivery line to retain water so when the pump is being serviced the delivery line doesn’t drain – use manual valves to bypass the check valve(s) to allow for start-of-season filling and end-of-season drainingSo, can these high bench range areas be watered from adjoining streams? – yes with proper equipment select, installation and operation. But the more difficult the site (such as the Marcers) the more attention such a system will need – something about there being “no free lunch” comes to mind !