As you travel through Arizona's cattle
country and National Forests you may have noticed stock tanks or small earthen
ponds scattered across these lands. Their primary purpose is to provide
water for grazing livestock and wildlife animals. Have you ever noticed
where they are located on the landscape? These structures are not built
randomly. They are specifically designed to harvest runoff water and store
it for animal use. The location is carefully chosen to maximize this function.
Usually they are constructed using a bulldozer that scoops out a shallow
basin in the path of seasonal runoff water. The earth is pushed downslope
of the basin to form a barrier or retaining wall. As water flows downslope,
it collects in these earthen basins until they are full. The average water
depth in these stock tanks is usually no more than 3 or 4 feet, however,
in years of low rainfall, these stock tanks can dry up.
So, who builds these tanks? Usually it is the livestock producer. Stock
tanks play a crucial role in enabling livestock to graze remote areas
because animals must have a water supply and it is cost prohibitive to
haul water to them by truck. The construction of stock tanks, especially
on public lands, has benefitted many wildlife species because they have
access to these additional water sources too. Next time you see a stock
tank, notice where it is on the landscape and try to figure out where
the water that is in it comes from.
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