Building a farm pond can be a challenging but rewarding experience. If the pond’s construction is carefully planned, you can avoid many unforeseen problems and end up with a versatile, skillfully built pond.
The very first step, and the most important is learning about the rules and regulations that are involved in farm pond construction. Advisors from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) can provide information on permits, regulations, liability issues etc. The NRCS can also offer advice on water rights and other important considerations.
After you are informed about the regulations, the next step is selecting a suitable location for the farm pond. The pond site should be a low-lying area where water usually collects but is not susceptible to flooding. You can also choose an area that is fed by a spring, small stream or some other natural water channel.
Wetlands are not usually good sites for ponds because the soil does not maintain water levels. Drainage is another factor to consider when you are choosing the pond site. The drainage area should be in sod or woodlands and not prone to runoff from silt, manure, or septic systems. Too much salt build-up can make the pond excessively muddy and lessen its depth over a period of years.
If you suspect an eventual problem with runoff, building a diversion ditch around it or a grass buffer can protect the pond. The soil for the pond site should be capable of holding water. Clay soil, especially soil treated with Bentonite, is the best choice since it tends to be compacted and impermeable.
The size and complexity of the pond will vary depending on your needs and the area available. However, the pond should have the capacity of holding deep water. If the pond is too shallow, it will be prone to develop too many weeds, frogs, etc. Plan the construction of your pond carefully and methodically.
If necessary consult a soil conservation officer for advice on location, drainage, etc. Once you have determined the size and location of the farm pond you will need a bulldozer to excavate the earth. You can either attempt the project yourself if you are proficient in operating a bulldozer, or you can hire someone to do it for you.
The contractor you hire to excavate the site should have some experience in pond excavation and know how to use the landscape to its best advantage. This not only reduces the amount of soil that will be moved but it also helps to cut costs.
Clear the pond site of vegetation, stumps, and large stones approximately ten feet from the shoreline. After this, begin excavating a dam with the bulldozer. Start the dam construction by first making a trench beneath the dam along its entire length.
The trench ensures that water does not seep out beneath the dam. The trench should be a minimum of 3 feet deeper than the bottom of the dam with a solid base. After the trench is dug, pack the clay that was removed to make the trench, back into it, in layers 4″-6″ deep.
Once this part of the project is completed, you can proceed to install excess water drainage structures. This includes pipes that convey water from the pond to another area of the farm, i.e., watering trough, etc.
Heavy rains can raise the water level of the pond and this overflowing water can do a lot of damage over a period of years. It will, therefore, be necessary to install a pond outlet to convey excess water from the pond.
This should be installed during the construction of the dam. Usually, an 8-inch diameter metal drain pipe is used to handle overflowing water. The inlet of the metal drainpipe rests approximately 1 foot from the surface of the pond while the outlet empties below the dam.
Sometimes the metal outlet pipe is installed at a right angle. This decreases clogging from floating weeds and other debris. It also increases the pipe’s efficiency in collecting overflow water.
Once the farm pond has been constructed, the shoreline that was cleared of trees stumps, boulders, and vegetation should be seeded to prevent erosion. The type of grass used should be a tough stemmed, thick variety.
Small trees and shrubs can also be planted around the pond to make it less stark and more natural-looking. The trees should not be planted too close to the water’s edge because the roots might pierce the sealing layer of the pond and create outlets for the water.
Farm ponds can also be kept partially ice-free during the winter by suspending a submersible pump into the deepest part of the pond. The pump allows warmer water from the bottom to circulate to the surface, which melts surface ice.
Constructing a farm pond involves some work and meticulous planning. The cost of the project varies with the amount of work involved in clearing the site and the complexity of the construction. However, in the end, your farm business and your family will benefit from its versatility.
Farm ponds can be a source of water for livestock or they can be stocked with fish. The water from the pond can also be used for irrigation and water emergency situations during times of drought.
Your family may also enjoy canoeing, swimming, or fishing in the pond. If your pond is properly built and managed it will function for many years and add value to your property.