The guzzler is a basically a cistern, or water collection tank that captures and stores rain water. It has an apron, tank, and roof, with access allowing wildlife access to the life sustaining water.

Most of the guzzler structures were constructed primarily of cement and sometimes rebar was added for reinforcement. There have been various differences in the types of material used for tank construction that we have noted. There are tanks (cisterns) that were produced by using cement block and mortar, form poured concrete, or fiberglass. The size of the cement & brick tank varies in some of their dimensions which may have been related to the construction issues at the time. We estimate that guzzlers tank generally holds (if there are no leaks)”between 600 and 900 gallons of water. The tanks internal dimensions (approximate) size;

Basic Measurements Overview:

Depth: 40” at the deepest part to ground level with a sloped incline to the entrance
Length: 8 feet
Width: 48”




The apron is the rain gatherer. It is simply a slab of concrete for rain to fall on and run off into the tank. The shape of the apron is unimportant and varies from rectangular to amoeba shaped. The size is what matters. A guzzler in the mountains with a lot of rain fall will be much smaller than the apron of a desert guzzler. The guzzlers unobtrusive structure and placement do not appear to cause an impediment to the natural environment while adding the aura of stealth while still keeping their functionality. There are some guzzlers with an apron surface area of approximately 300 square feet and still extremely difficult to identify from a distance. It is unsure, as of this date, what standard or possible “rain table” was use in the determination of the apron size. Aprons are construction of poured cement & occasionally had rebar added. The thickness of the apron is approximately 3” to 4” inches.
The roofs of the tanks were built using the same material as the apron, and in fact serve as part of the apron on many guzzlers. Many of the roofs have a “turtle shell” appearance and from a distance look similar to that of a rock formation. Their height measured from ground level is always under a couple of feet.


Many of the guzzlers in San Diego County were built between 1948 and 1952. The California Department of Fish & Game and the California Conservation Corp had teams of men building guzzlers throughout the state. It is estimated that between 200 and 300 guzzlers were built in San Diego County area. It is unknown how many of those guzzlers still survive today and finding their location is a daunting task. The original maps of the guzzlers locations were hand drawn and many of the land marks no longer exist due to habitat destruction and or population encroachment. For example, our Quail Unlimited chapter has old maps showing quite a few guzzlers in Mira Mesa, Santee, and Poway area and there have been many changes in those areas since 1949 when the maps were drawn. There have been at least a couple guzzlers built by Boy Scouts in ensuing years.
Our Chapter has retained one of the California Department of Fish & Games “Guzzler Construction” manuals, that was printed in the mid 1960s, which provides a wealth of information regarding the construction and placement of a guzzler. It’s a large file but please enjoy it in PDF format – DFG’s DFGGUZZLERPLANS.