Adding an attractive water feature to your landscaping can enhance your property’s overall appeal and increase its resale value, but you may not know where to begin designing and creating the pond of your dreams. As an experienced excavating and landscaping company, Colonial Excavating has created this detailed guide to building a pond.
Uses for a Human-Made Pond
Ponds have dozens of practical and recreational uses, including the following.
- Irrigation: These ponds can allow you to irrigate your property or provide fresh water to livestock.
- Erosion reduction: The pond can reduce erosion and collect water runoff so the land around it can maintain its natural form.
- Firefighting purposes: In rural areas, firefighters often find the closest stream or creek to siphon water from, but a pond can be an excellent water source for firefighting. It can also protect from forest fires by providing a natural border between flammable crops and plant life.
- Ecosystem creation: Insects, animals and plants can thrive around your pond.
- Fishing: You can stock your pond with fish.
- Swimming: Use pond cleaners, so pollution doesn’t affect your water quality while keeping swimmers and wildlife healthy.
- Aesthetics: Having a pond can create a peaceful environment for people to enjoy.
Choosing Your Pond Location
Choosing a location for your residentially excavated pond is one of the most crucial decisions you must make for many reasons. First, create a budget to determine what size pond you can afford. You’ll also want to pick an area with a slope that has enough room for a spillway area for drainage. Avoid low-lying areas and locations with buildings, roads and livestock downslope from the pond to ensure your property does not flood during the construction process.
Overhanging trees can produce unwanted waste and debris, which may clog drainage systems. Another critical factor for pond location is the ground itself. You will want your pond to have a seal to prevent leaks, and the presence of rocks and gravel will compromise your seal’s quality. Meanwhile, soil with a high clay content can be an excellent place to dig a pond. If the spot you have found for your pond fits all the requirements but does not have enough clay, you can always purchase clay at your local landscape supply company to mix with your soil to help seal the pond bottom better.
Additional practical decisions for building a pond include visibility from your property, the amount of sunlight you want your pond to receive and other aesthetic visions you have. Critically, there must be a source of consistent water flow into the pond.
Be Sure You Have a Consistent Water Source
Surface runoff, the first source of consistent water you can have, is the easiest to get a permit for because it does not impact aquatic organisms. Using surface runoff requires three acres of land for each acre-foot depth of pond water, so depending on how much land there is, it may not be enough to fill your pond.
Another water source can be groundwater, but this is not usually sufficient as a sole contributor to the pond. You can check the quality and quantity of groundwater by digging test pits. Pairing this with surface runoff can be an adequate water source and may not need as big of a spillway for drainage.
Natural springs are one of the best ways to fill your pond because of the constant flow of clean, clear and cold water. However, it can be the hardest to get permission for, since it affects and diverts natural streamflow and aquatic organisms.
The last way of filling your pond is pumping water from a well. It can be expensive to power a well using electricity, but you can consider switching to money-saving renewable resources like solar and wind energy. Well water is excellent for topping off your pond’s water level, but you must be careful the well does not dry out, since it can collapse and require professional repairs.
Stages of Pond Construction
Building and excavating a pond requires extensive planning and coordination to ensure safety and integrity throughout the project. Here’s what you need to know.
Before starting residential excavation, you must remove all vegetation from the pond area to avoid rooting issues in the structure. Dig underneath the topsoil until you get to the subsoil. After the completion of your pond, vegetation should quickly replenish and flourish.
Excavating the Area
When residentially excavating, you must determine if you have any sewage or water lines around the excavation area to avoid unwanted damage to utilities. Depending on how you plan to use your pond, you may want to keep it shallow to reduce the risk of people or animals falling in and drowning. Consider creating ledges at different heights for plants, animals and people who may be swimming.
Before breaking ground on this project, remember that you will likely need to get necessary construction permits for residential excavating and other aspects of the process. Knowledgeable landscapers are aware of all the documentation required at the local and state levels and will apply for these permits on your behalf. Another reason to partner with a contractor to build your pond is that they will carefully engineer it according to all regulations and safety guidelines.
Compressing the Soil to Avoid Erosion
Compressing the soil is a crucial step in sealing the pond. When compressing the soil, the more clay you have, the better your chances of a quality seal in your pond. To decrease your chances of unwanted pond drainage, remember to remove gravel and rocks before the excavating machinery rolls over the soil to compact it.
After compacting the dirt and clay, you may wish to place a liner to further seal your pond. You can also use a process called gleying, which involves creating an anaerobic layer to seal your pond. However, your engineer or contractor may not recommend this strategy.
When constructing a dike, your residential excavator will dig a trench and fill it with highly compressed soil to serve as an anchor. Then, they will place a spillway pipe is placed with anti-seeping collars to prevent water seepage. Finally, a contractor will construct the rest of the dike at the correct height and width with soil only. Using debris and rocks to fill the dike can cause leakage or flooding. If done correctly, water should slowly start to pour into the pond.
Fill and Drain Your Pond of Water
If you have constant water flow, your pond should fill within a few weeks, but draining your pond is equally essential. Pond construction typically involves using grassy spillways, culverts, pipes or inline water control devices. Using a piped spillway can allow you to set the exact water level you want while giving you the option to raise or lower your spillway pipe.
You can place a standpipe in the middle of the pond leading to the spillway or have the pipe at the embankment. You must be careful with clogging issues, so emergency spillways are highly recommended. Inadequate spillways are the No. 1 way dike ponds fail due to overflow erosion. Natural spillways are one option, but they may have more vulnerability to erosion, so talk with your contractor to discuss your choices.
Let Us Start Digging
As the premier excavating and landscaping company serving the entire Capital Region of New York, Colonial Excavating has all the resources and expertise you need to manage any size project, whether on a planned or emergency basis. When you choose us, you’ll partner with a contractor who is present, professional and reliable — and who can do the job right the first time. Before breaking ground on a new pond, request a free quote from us so we can help you start your project today!