Pet Water Warden

This weekend’s Make project is a great one for pet owners — an automatic water bowl refilling device!

It’s a fairly simple build, utilizing an old water jug, an Arduino, an aquarium pump, and some home-made water sensors. As always, MAKE has a very thorough guide, and the estimated build time is only an hour or two. They even threw in the ability to Tweet it’s status, including when the reservoir is empty.

But are we over-complicating this? A gravity based water feeder using the jug could work just as well. Sure, you wouldn’t get Twitter updates, but we hope you’re around your pets long enough to know when they’re thirsty.

A more refined version of this could include a solenoid water valve tapped into your house, eliminating the need of the reservoir and making this project a bit more useful. But even that might be a bit much, do we really need the Arduino?  What about a spring-loaded water bowl that breaks a contact when the bowl is empty? Hook that up to a 5 second timer relay controlling the water valve, and you’ve simplified the project quite a bit!

After the break, check out the video to get some more ideas!

Once you’re done this one, why not make a treat dispenser too?

[via MAKE]

42 thoughts on “Pet Water Warden

    1. i do like it and a lot of thought went in to its design, but i follow the rule “keep it simple, stupid” so i don’t make thing to complicated and too hard to repair. Here is one i built for my brother’s dogs

      Automatic dog water bowl:
      -one bucket or tub
      -float valve (a toilet float valve will do the job)
      -length of hose (as long as you need)
      -two tape connector (one for tape and other for float valve, but you should check if it will work out with the type of float value you choose)
      -two hose end connectors
      -fixing for float valve (some sort of bracket to hold float valve in place)

      1. Alternative automatic dog water bowl
        -one bucket or tub
        -one water storage container
        -one relay (appropriate for the pump)
        -some wire
        -two nails (you can choose some thing else as contacts)
        -one solar powered garden pump (cheap solar fountain kit)

        i am using something similar to built a water cooled kenal for the dogs

    1. I’ve built a LAAAAARGE reservoir for a room humidifier using a low-pressure solenoid valve. Made a cover that would hold a float switch and the solenoid where one of the (water-seal) humidifier reservoirs would sit, a hose to a 35l jerrycan (soon upgraded to two of them in parallel), and a small power supply. I had some thoughts about adding a timer to reduce the possibility of overflowing the humidifier, but the setup turned out to be robust enough in all its simplicity. Instead of filling the humidifier reservoirs every day (a bit fiddly) I just had to fill the jerrycans (using the garden hose) every two weeks or so.

      As for the animal water bowl: our cat occasionally prefers to drink from a running tap. I’ve wondered if a system that acts like a tap would be as attractive, with a proximity sensor, a reservoir and a solenoid, and maybe a pump to get excess water from the bowl back into the reservoir.

  1. > A gravity based water feeder using the jug could work just as well.

    Even simpler is just checking the bowl regularly. If that’s too much work, you probably shouldn’t get a pet.

    1. Some people go places for long weekends. My two dogs were perfectly happy Staying home alone for two or three days. We had a 5 gallon gravity water bowl, and a gravity feeder that would hold a 40 pound bag of dog food. This and a dog door in the wall that went out to the dog yard and they were fairly maintenance free. Before you chime in with the “take them with you” argument, one was a 220 pound Great Dane and the other was a 140 pound German Shepherd Husky mix. They wouldn’t both fit in the car, and I’ve never found a hotel that would allow dogs that big in Anchorage.

        1. I got lucky. Neither would overeat. Though my wife chased the big guy around the house one day and taught him who was boss. He got on the counter and ate a cake she baked for a client. After that the dogs would stop at the kitchen threshold and not come in. Though occasionally the shepherd would do a “fly-by” sniffing while running through around the island. Was pretty funny to watch.

      1. Aha, going places. That’s a novel concept. Why would you want to go places when you can stay home and work ? :)

        And how about filling a few buckets with water and letting them drink from that ?

      2. Not trying to pick a fight – just genuinely want to know – how do you know they were perfectly happy while you were away? Did you check with neighbors, who reported no persistent barking/yelping? Or a CCTV system? My neighbors go out and their two Labradors bark incessantly (literally non-stop for 4+ hours) and actually quiet down as said neighbors begin approaching their home. I think they’re actually oblivious. I think the same goes for anyone who “checks in” for the same reasons.

        1. Actually I did have a “grand puppy” cam set up so my parents could check out the scenery, and the pups. It was mounted on the roof overlooking the dog yard. Also had a friend who’d stop by at the half way day just to make sure they didn’t eat anything they shouldn’t have. The dane decided to make a new dog door once. Made it through the sheetrock, insulation and probably about half way through the exterior sheathing before anyone got home from work. After that we made some wainscoat from masonite after I patched the wall. Kept them from getting a bite into the soft sheetrock.

          We also found that 3 days was about the limit, any longer and someone had to stop by and play with them for a couple hours or they’d get into stuff, you know, like the furniture….

    2. Agreed. For the folks that say well what if we want to get away for a weekend, what if we have to work for sixty hours in the salt mine, what if blah blah blah – you should have thought about that before getting pets, no one forced you.

      1. We did think of that, which is why we came up with a solution; it’s not our problem that you are using a machine with thousands of parts to send dumb messages across the whole country about how a damn automatic water bowl refilling system is “too complicated”.

  2. You can buy animal feeders that connect the house water supply here.
    They are a bowl shape which screws the wall, and at the back of the bowl shape covered by a cover that clips in place is a small ball float mechanism which maintains the level. In the bottom of the bowl is a plastic plug you can remove to clean them.
    Theyre about $18 to buy and ultra reliable. Local farmers buy them for sheep and other livestock.

      1. As long as it’s not full of blue water that works pretty well. Though you have to teach them to flush to get fresh water. My mom’s cat likes to watch the water swirl around so they had to replace the lever with a button flush thingy.

  3. > A gravity based water feeder using the jug could work just as well.

    Some dogs (mostly cats) won’t drink stagnated/contaminated water. Gravity fill in direct contact with reservoir. Will attempt to overturn or execute a carefully metred bat to rid the stank.

    I.e. a dog with a mental bottleneck, she had teeth representitive of a hedge trimmer
    ( wasn’t a tweeker so didn’t do the jaw clench, grind/jiggle) sans reciprocation.
    Said princess liked to munch on her effluent nuggets-> tainting the water-> other animals would scoff at the idea of drinking this tepid cesspool.

    Current princess is a special boy. He won’t drink out of a bowl that hasn’t been refresh within a couple hours. He’ll invert it in aggression.

    Assuming its a self presevation measure via observation.
    Like not defecating in a bidet

  4. much easier to have a large reservoir with a closed top that is “sealed” with a water seal (being partially submerged in the bowl).

    When the dog drinks enough to break the seal (water level gets low) a glug of air goes into the reservoir and a glug of water comes out.
    completely passive, the only problem could be if the dog knocks over the reservoir.
    (though this could be a long way off the ground or fixed to the wall and only have a hose going down to the bowl).

    no need for complex valves etc, let the water be it’s own valve, you set the level of water present in the bowl by changing the height of the outlet from teh reservoir.

  5. >>A more refined version of this could include a solenoid water valve tapped into your house, eliminating the need of the reservoir and making this project a bit more useful. But even that might be a bit much, do we really need the Arduino?

    i already have a toilet.

  6. Sometimes a project just needs doing because it can be done.

    HOWEVER: About a year ago, I had 3 German Shepherds and a Golden Retriever. We use a 5 gallon gravity “blurp”-type water bowl. Not because we were lazy, but to make sure the dogs always had water. And depending on the temperature or how hard they were playing, they might make a 5 gallon bottle last 3 days, or 1 day.

    The issue with ANY of these systems is algae. You HAVE to regularly clean the bowl and neck. This isn’t the green aquarium type, it’s the brown slime type. The dog slobber in the water seems to helps the algae grow (unlike some humans, dogs don’t know how to prevent ‘backwash’ into the dish).

    Even after a day, one of my dogs would rather drink from a freshly pulled bowl of water, rather than the tank dish. The other three, they didn’t seem to care so much. Like one post above mentions, some dogs tolerate it better than others.

    While it might have been convenient to have a low-water sensor, I’m fairly against an automatic filling system, just because of the risk of flooding. If you’ve never had your house flood, or seen the aftermath of water line break at a friends house (+$90K of damage in less than 6 hours, when a 2nd floor water line fractured), you *really* want to think twice about redundancy, both in cut-offs and alarms.

    Summary: Keep the bowl and tank clean. Small amounts of slime won’t hurt them, but more probably will. Consider how reliable your system is against flooding, and whether you really want an auto-fill system, or just a low-water alert.

    Lastly, some dogs like to stand in the water bowl when they’re hot. Dogs don’t sweat like humans for cooling, they pant, and radiate heat from their paws. Standing in water helps cool them down, but also makes for dirty water.

    1. Pretty much came by to say this ^^^^^

      If you’re working with pets and water, be really sure you aren’t going to be designing a flooding system. My pets (cats and dogs) would love nothing more than to convince the automated watering system to make them a pool in the kitchen.

    2. If you are worried, just fit the auto fill system outside where if something goes wrong, you end up with a wet garden. My dog lives outside in the garden when we’re not home anyway.

  7. Would you want a drink of water from a dirty glass with old water in it to which a top off only happens. I think there may be a disease connection with mouth and gum problems.
    Wash that bowel out daily.

      1. We have special coffee that kills germs at my work. It must… either that or washing dishes is a waste of time because a buddy of mine has gone at least 6 months without anything more than a tiny swirling of coffee from the pot after it’s done brewing in the morning which he pours out and then pours his first cup of the day. Six whole months and no ill effects to speak of yet.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.