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Water Issues For Equestrian Properties

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If you are considering purchasing a horse ranch, there are many concerns in making sure the property will work for your home, business, or riding club. One of the most important elements on any equestrian property is the water supply and irrigation system. Here's a look at four areas to examine with regard to ranch water.  

Barns and Horse Watering

Whether you own or board horses, one of your primary concerns with any equestrian property is the water supply and distribution in the barn area. Water cost and availability will be largely determined by the water source. You will likely have unlimited water (unless there are drought restrictions) if the property is linked to a municipal water supply, although this may come at a premium cost. Other common sources that may impose more limitations on water include on-site wells and tanks.

The horse barn or stables should have an adequate and safe water supply for the horses, ideally with automatic waterers in every stall and/or paddock. The plumbing should be in good shape, and the pumps should be sufficient for the amount of water use you predict on the property. If the property is located in a cold climate, the plumbing and water supply need to be protected from freezing with insulation and possible heaters.

Sufficient water should also be available for other uses in the barn area, including

  • horse-grooming stations and wash racks
  • barn cleaning
  • showers and locker room
  • kitchen

Landscaping and Irrigation

Water and an irrigation system will also be needed to maintain the landscaping on your property. In addition to needing adequate hydration for plants, lawn and trees, your ranch may have other water needs as well. Make sure the water supply and piping can handle jobs like watering down a dusty riding arena, keeping pastures green, and irrigating grasses grown for on-site hay production.

There may be natural bodies of water on the property. Some questions you need to ask about these include:

  1. Are these bodies of water safe for the horses, or do they need to be fenced off?
  2. Can the horses use them as a source of drinking water while turned out?
  3. Are there environmental concerns or regulations either upstream or downstream from the property?
  4. Is the natural water source a good source of water for field irrigation or emergency water supply?

Fire Protection

Having an emergency source of water is a nice bonus for any horse ranch but especially if you are in a high-risk area for wildfires. Many country estates are some distance from the nearest fire department and have no public water supply.

If this describes the ranch you're looking at, it's wise to speak with the local fire department about how you could use this water supply in the event of a fire or threat of a fire. It may pay to have a standpipe installed, if there is not already one there, so firefighters can simply hook into it, like a hydrant, in the event of an emergency. You may also want to have your own pump and hoses to spray down roofs and landscaping if a wildfire is nearby. 

Residential Water Use

If you will also have your residence on the ranch property, of course, the water supply needs to be adequate for your personal use as well. This includes bathrooms, kitchen, laundry, and perhaps a swimming pool. You may want to have separate systems for the home and the rest of the property to take pressure off the plumbing if the property is not on municipal water.

Purchasing a horse ranch is a major undertaking. Make sure the water issues are satisfactory before looking at any other concerns, as water is a top priority and may not be as flexible as other elements of the property.