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Low water alarm

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Well-known member
Feb 28, 2009
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Roseburg, Oregon
Thanks Brute
The lower part of the system was built with the help and partial funding of the Soil and Water Conservation District and included fencing the cattle out of the creeks. They designed it and we built everything to their specs. The stock tanks we put in were locally available and are 300 gallons. We can have over 40 pairs in one pasture, so they consume a lot of water when it is hot. Bigger tanks would be helpful, so as we replace them over time, we can put in larger ones. We built all of the higher elevation without financial or professional assistance, adding two springs, more storage and eventually the well. We probably made mistakes, but it has worked pretty well for over 15 years, with most problems occurring as the system has aged or when pipes break due to hard freezes, which doesn't happen often here.

One thing that is likely due to a mistake in design, is that when something down below fails, it will also drain many of the stock tanks at higher elevations. It somehow sucks the water back out of them. You would think the float would prevent that from happening, but it will suck the water back out until it is below where the floats are attached near the bottom of the tanks. I've included a picture of the floats we use at both the stock tanks and the larger supply tanks. They are installed high up in storage tanks, but need to be near the bottom of the stock tank. These floats are much superior to the original ones they had us put in. They were toilet floats and refilling was way too slow. When a group of cows arrive at the tank together, they would often drain it before it could refill. The tank would then refill with so much force it would end up spraying water right over the top of the tank.

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My husband has reminded me that we actually need to replace the pump itself in addition to the battery on the solar well. It was never able to pump enough water in summer to get ahead of the cows and he does not want to spend the money to replace it now. It was a shallow well with a hand pump, near an old homestead by the creek. When the creek dries up it has very little water, so not of much use when you really need it.

What are pipe water legs? I'm not sure I understand what you are saying there.

Brute 23

Well-known member
Apr 19, 2007
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Gulf Coast of South Texas
Your right it can cause a suction or vaccum effect. Same theory as using a siphoning hose.

A water leg sets a designated water level height. So as an example if you have a 10' tank you come out of the bottom of the tank and go up in the air, vertically, with an open ended pipe slightly higher than the tank height. At what ever height you want the water level to not go below you put a T and go horizontally and then back to the ground and on to the next tank or trough in line.

Let's say you T off your vertical riser at 5'. That tank will never go below 5' because the water level will equalize in the vertical riser and not spill over.

It will also prevent the siphoning effect because it will only pull back to that point of the open ended vertical riser then it will start pulling air until it equalizes with the atmospheric pressure.

The water legs dont just have to be used for tank levels they can be used in runs of pipe and set off the elevation of troughs or tanks up the hill.

They also work great for trapping sediment because you get a p trap effect.

Not sure if its applicable but it would help in isolating sections to prevent a total loss when there is a failure.


Well-known member
May 30, 2019
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Middle TN
Here are some pictures. I haven't tried this with the new forum, so we'll see what it can handle. Not sure my internet can even handle all this.

Pump house up top.
View attachment 517

First storage tank. Down below. Picture taken from about 1/2 way down hill.View attachment 518
Looking up at same tank. This one is fed by two springs and the above well, when needed.
View attachment 519
Second storage tank. Fed by one spring and first tank up above, plus there is a small well with solar power that could feed this tank if we replaced the battery.View attachment 520
One of the many stock tanks.

View attachment 521
A few of the girls want to know why I am not taking a picture of them.View attachment 522
I have read through this thread. First, let me be very clear that I am Not trying to sell you anything or any service. Just an older Electrical Engineer and 3rd generation beef cattleman. I am in middle TN and have done control & automation all my life.
One thing that helps the most when trying to design a wide spread or distributed system like yours is a sketch. A simple line drawing that identifies each individual item at each location. For example "Tank1" then describe what is physically at that location; Tank 1 has one pump with no level control or Tank 1 has a mechanical float switch, etc... You have to build your layout.
SCADA stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition and has been around a very long time and costs have gone down exponentially. No matter how you paint it or what you call it this is what you need to build.
Going purely off your photos it appears you do not have much if any power infrastructure at the remote locations. However, if there is a pump at each location that is a start, and solar is another good option. Either setup requires hardware and modifications to the existing system.
Another big question is how capable are you to do some/all of the work yourself? Trying to break it down into meaningful points, you need a device(s) to provide a signal (input) from multiple locations. Installation is one of the most important things here. Simple on the front side does not always mean reliable or serviceable for the long term. And you must consider what other things you will be able to do for very little additional costs, and these costs can be spread out. This is called a scalar system or installation. We do this a Lot in the water and waste water industry.
So lets take one of your tanks. The typical things that are monitored are tank level, water flow, pump running, pump tripped. Ancillary things that are often monitored such as the source needing water and the pump Not running may not be necessary in you application. So you need devices at each location to read/measure the conditions you want to monitor. And you need something to receive this information and interpret it into meaningful data which can be sent to your phone, PC, etc... In simplest terms this is SCADA. Telemetry is a sending the remote signals wirelessly.
If you understand this so far you probable understand there are several ways to monitor flow and level, but nothing it 100% reliable 100% of the time for ever. So this is where the financial decisions begin. I have helped design systems that get as close as possible to 100% + 100% and have helped design systems as close as possible within a given budget. If you have a decent understanding of the hardware being used and electrical wiring you can do some/a lot of fieldwork yourself. But you will likely need help sending the signals remotely, receiving them and doing something with them.
When figuring cost you will need to figure out how many data points you will have. In your case there is a physical element and a wireless element. If you are set to do this yourself you could help with the learning curve by doing it at one remote location using an expandable system. Start simple; take one of your tanks and measure level and flow; 2 data points. Start with what/how you will provide power. If you have a continuous power source (pump power) you could add local motor control and create a distribution panel for telemetry (signaling) power. Or install a solar system for signal power). Power it the key.
I am glad to help you build the layout and physical needs. Again, the starting point is a sketch to talk around.
Lastly, check out Automation Direct . They are as cheap on control as anyone I know. And are very good with support. They may not have everything you need but a good place to start and learn.
Also check ebay. I have purchased a ton of control stuff there and have been shocked at some of the stuff I have found there.
Let me know if I can help.
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