Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Published by University of Nebraska – Lincoln’s Livestock Environmental Issues Committee.


Low Water Stream Crossings for Cattle (LWSC)

Livestock access to streams, specifically, cattle access to streams in pastures has become of concern in the development of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs). There is very little information available to planners on the contribution of nitrogen, ammonia, phosphorus, and human health-related microorganisms to stream segments from rangeland cattle. A common modeling solution in the development of TMDLs is to exclude livestock from streams in order to reduce nutrient loads. Although this approach seems simplistic, it is problematic for owners and managers of rangeland livestock.
Many producers are now choosing to supply water to their livestock from man-made drinking water sources supplied by groundwater, surface water or rural water supplies. In addition to providing a higher quality source of water for livestock, these approaches have the added benefit of minimizing the amount of time livestock spend near surface water sources. These practices along with rangeland management techniques such as rotational grazing (cross fencing) have increased the production capacity of pastures.
LWSCs (Figure 1) are permanent crossing locations in streams or other conduits of surface water that a) provide access across the stream; b) minimize erosive effects of unprotected stream banks; and c) is comparable in cost to entire stream exclusion (fencing). LWSCs have been utilized for a wide range of crossing applications including tanks, farm machinery and livestock. LWSCs can be made from a variety of materials, including concrete, rock and riprap, and bricks. They are generally exempt from section 404, Army Corp of Engineer Permit requirements, since they are considered an unregulated access road. As with any construction project, regulatory requirements should be verified with all state and local authorities before construction.