Madison County Soil Conservation District 

Serving to Conserve Madison County's Soil & Related Natural Resources Since 1941

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The below hyperlinks will provide you additional information on ponds.

Pond Booklet      NRCS Pond Standards & Specifications    

NRCS Pond Sealing

Ponds are used to provide water for livestock, fish and wildlife, recreation, fire control, irrigation, landscaping, and other related uses.

A pond can be a pleasure but if proper steps aren't taken in planning, designing, and constructing a lot of time and money can be spent with no water to show for it. On the surface a pond may seem relatively simple, just get a man with a dozer and have him dam up a hollow. How complicated can a pond be, right? Well we regularly receive calls about ponds that just don't hold water and landowners wanting to know what they can do. It is far easier and considerably less expensive to do it right from the beginning. So before you get that dozer man there are several things to consider.

  • First, the soil should be evaluated on its ability to hold water. All soils may look the same on the surface but like people they all have their unique properties that make them suited or unsuited for different uses. Soils with excessive sand or otherwise well drained can lead to excessive seepage. Soil can be evaluated by looking at the site on the Madison County Soil Survey or by visiting the Web Soil Survey internet web site or by following this link. Post holes can be dug to examine the material where the dam will be built and the pond will be located. The holes can be filled with water or backhoe pits can be dug and filled with water to gage the soil's ability to hold water. As you fill the holes the ground around the holes will soak in some of the water so keep refilling the holes to see if the water level stabilizes. Keep in mind that the deeper the body of water the more pressure will be on the basin bottom to push the water through the underlying soil. One may construct a 20 foot dam but the basin bottom may reach its water pressure limitation when 8 feet of water bares down on it. Each cubic foot of water weighs 64 pounds. Twenty feet of water would exert 1,280 pounds of force per square foot, 64 x 20. 

  • The land above the pond site should be evaluated for adequate but not excessive drainage and as to the land use. This can be done visually or by studying a contour map of the area. Too much water and provisions will need to be made for the excess water. Too little runoff and the water level may not reach or maintain an acceptable level, especially during long dry periods. Crop land within the drainage area could cause the water to be muddy and agricultural chemicals could drain to the pond.

  • The ground where the center line of the dam will go needs to be cored out and backfilled with good material. This will help prevent the dam from moving and help prevent excessive seepage. Usually the core trench is dozer blade wide and extends down to good solid material and for the entire length of the dam. Cut slopes should be no steeper that 1:1 before filling. If the cut is 3 feet deep then the cut bank needs to be cut back at least 3 feet. Vertical cuts are hard to pack with fill and can lead to the the fill cracking and the dam failing. 

  • The dam foundation needs to be grubbed of all grass. All stumps, roots, and other debris need to be removed from the site. Earth fill over organic debris can lead to seepage and dam failure.

  • Only clean soil needs to used as fill material. Dams composed with organic fill can lead to seepage and dam failure. Debris hinders packing which may create voids and organic debris will decompose creating voids

  • Apparent sand pockets and tree stumps holes need to be grubbed out and filled with good material, and packed.

  • To prevent undesirable aquatic vegetation the shore line around the pond needs to be sloped so the water depth is at least 2 foot deep 6 feet from the shore line.




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