If you buy a bare block one of the first things to think about is your water reticulation system. You need stock water as well as house water and making the right decisions at the start will save you money.

How much water do you need?

Imagine your property in a year or two - how many livestock will you have? How many people will live there? Use this table to estimate how much water you'll use in a day and then multiply it by 1.2 just to be sure!

Where will your water come from?

  • Roof water - a good cheap source but its supply is variable.  You'll need sufficient roof area to supply your tanks.  It can be contaminated by chemical sprays and bird droppings.
  • Town supply - very reliable; treated and potable.
  • Rural supply - limited supply which is trickle-fed. Quality is variable depending on the source.
  • Groundwater from springs - the source may be unknown and the supply may vary.
  • Groundwater from bores - these can be deep or shallow.  Consider the costs of drilling and risks of failure.  The quality must be tested for minerals deleterious to health.  There are risks of contamination from septic tanks, animal effluent, and runoff.
  • Artesian water - from a deep source and usually very potable.  Check for contamination from animal effluent.
  • Lakes, ponds, and dams - collected from natural sources, usually runoff.  Can be very variable because of rainfall and prone to pollution around edges where stock drinks.  Man-made ponds and dams need to be properly sealed and may require resource consent.
  • Streams, rivers, and creeks.  Prone to stock damage and contamination

Some options will require consent or permits, depending on regional plans.


Choosing the right water tank (or tanks) is important. If there are dams or ponds on the property you'll need to estimate their capacity to know if you'll need a supplementary supply.

Where do you need it?

Of course, you'll need water for the house but where else? Each paddock should have a water supply, usually a trough, and you may want to consider having water available in sheds, barns, animal shelters, and the garden too.

Water lines should be underground to protect them from heat, frosts, rodents and livestock. Unless you're planning to dig in the lines by hand you'll need to use a ripper or trencher.


It's a good idea to have the house and farm supplies on separate lines. That way if you have a problem with the farm supply, you can switch off the farm supply without switching off the housing supply too.

After that, you should look at the most economic layout for your plan. This may be one long line with troughs and taps branching off it, or multiple lines servicing different parts of the property.

When you have set up the system make sure you have a diagram and pass it on to house-sitters and new owners. Trying to troubleshoot a water problem when you have no idea where the pipes, joins, or taps are is maddening!

Handy hints:

  • Use inline taps so that you can shut off individual troughs for cleaning or if there is a leak.
  • The bigger the pipe, the more efficient the water flow so consider using a 25mm or 32mm pipe.
  • If you run your pipes along fence lines they're easy to find. Don't do this until the fencing is complete!
  • Site water troughs where they're easily accessible to livestock and away from high-traffic areas such as gates.
  • Don't place troughs in corners where a stock may crush together when trying to drink.
  • Avoid sitting troughs under trees or anywhere they're likely to be affected by pollen or dust.
  • Always have spare parts for your system on hand, including joints and stoppers. Leaks have a nasty tendency to appear on days when rural supplies stores are shut.