Water for wildlife

Helping out thirsty animals in one of the nation's driest states.

By Mike Canning
Assistant Director, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

A big game guzzler installed in the Book Cliffs.

With Utah being such a dry state, there are many areas that cannot sustain healthy wildlife populations, simply due to lack of water. These areas often contain the food, cover and other items necessary for wildlife to thrive, but wildlife do not use them because water is such a limiting factor.

A big game guzzler installed in the Book Cliffs.

To resolve this problem and open up new areas for wildlife, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), sportsmen and sportswomen, agricultural producers and state and federal land management agencies are working together to install man-made water sources (often called "guzzlers") in the locations where they are needed most.

Although there are many types of designs, a guzzler typically consists of three major parts:

  • a large "apron" (often made of metal) that collects rainwater during storm events
  • a storage tank that holds the water
  • a drinker or trough where wildlife can access the water

There are guzzlers built specifically for large animals, such as deer, elk, bison, bighorn sheep and livestock, and there are also upland game guzzlers built specifically for birds such as chukar or Gambel's quail. In addition to the target species, guzzlers provide water to numerous other wildlife species as well.

The DWR is currently aware of almost 900 guzzlers throughout the state. The exact locations of these guzzlers are not published in order to provide some protection to the animals that use them, but general locations of the guzzlers are shown in this map below.

General locations of Utah guzzlers.

As you can see, most of the guzzlers are located in the driest parts of the state.

In addition to these existing guzzlers, DWR, land management agencies and numerous wildlife conservation groups have contributed the labor and funding needed to install 17 new upland game guzzlers and 28 new big game guzzlers during the next year.

Expanded wildlife populations benefit Utah's hunters, wildlife watchers and the public at large by enhancing the quality of life in our state. Guzzlers are vital components of these wildlife expansion efforts, and Utah is lucky to have the partnerships in place to continue installing new guzzlers in the most crucial areas.


Mike Canning

Mike Canning

Michael "Mike" Canning serves as the Division's assistant director and has spent most of his career working on wildlife habitat and land management issues. Prior to becoming assistant director, Mike worked as GIS Coordinator and Habitat Section chief.

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