We only wanted them for summer use, our buckets freeze every year, last year they froze solid on a daily basis. We figured no nipple waterers would survive that, so we would have been content with lessening the work load 3/4 of the year.
Good luck with the sand, I hope it works for you. I loved it at first, but it turned out the entire pen area was in a bit of a "bowl" and it turned into a soup of black mud/sand. Picture dipping the peas in dark chocolate, and that's about what they looked like. Thank goodness they had dropped their trains before the rains started.
How on earth did you resolve the drainage problem?