The Importance of Proper Pond Design in Conserving Water Resources

Ponds should be inspected regularly. Routine maintenance reduces the cost of repairs and extends the useful life of the pond.

Experts from your county Soil and Water Conservation District or Natural Resource Conservation Service can help you make sound pond decisions. They can also refer you to qualified contractors and engineers.


Waterfalls add beauty to a pond and allow for an easier time cultivating plants like water lilies, lotus, canna, and other taller aquatics. They can also help to aerate the pond, creating a more oxygen-rich environment that is healthier for fish and other aquatic life.

The water that splashes out of the waterfall also serves to aerate the pond as it falls, reducing the need for supplemental aeration. This is important because aeration can help reduce noxious odors and anaerobic conditions that destroy fish and other aquatic life.

When designing a waterfall, it is important to remember water conservation, if it does not have enough power, it can create excessive water flow, which will cause the pond to overflow. To avoid this, it is best to use a waterfall design that is smaller in size than the pond itself.

Shallow Slopes

A pond is constructed when an earthen impounding structure dams a stream or other surface water. This type of pond requires a constant water source and must be monitored to ensure sufficient depth.

In many cases, underground springs are the most dependable and economical water source for a pond. Digging test pits (4 – 6 feet deep) on the site of a proposed pond may reveal this information. Consult your local county NRCS and Soil and Water Conservation District offices for help locating potential water sources.

When pond construction is complete, monitoring the pond and watershed for problems such as excessive sediment buildup and algae growth is important. These items can reduce the pond’s capacity, cause offensive odors, and may lead to fish kills.


A pond can lose an inch or more daily to evaporation and seepage. A pond must have a stream or overflow to replace this lost water.

A stream can be an attractive feature and provide wildlife and fish habitat. It is also an effective way to reduce erosion, control nutrient loads, and prevent excessive sedimentation of the pond bottom.

In most cases, a good stream starts in a lower part of the pond and flows toward the dam or spillway. This allows the pond to handle heavy rainfall events without flooding.

Streams should be lined with native warm-season grasses to stabilize the banks, reduce erosion, and provide nesting areas for birds and other wildlife. This also minimizes fertilizer, herbicide, and pesticide runoff.

Floating Plants

Floating plants suck up nitrogen and excess nutrients from the water, naturally improving pond water quality. They also help prevent an unhealthy buildup of algae.

Pond capacity can be determined by calculating the pond’s surface area, measured in acres, multiplied by the maximum depth at the dam. The pond must be large enough to meet usage needs without being too deep for swimming and fish rearing.

If a pond is fed by overland flow, measures should be taken to limit sedimentation and the addition of chemicals from the surrounding land. Small settling basins upstream of the pond may trap sediment and chemicals before entering the pond. This practice is much more cost-effective than dredging.


Whether you have a fish pond, recreational pond, or water source pond, it is important to keep up with the maintenance. Regular inspection and debris removal is required to prevent the overflow of pond water. This is particularly important for the primary outlet pipe that passes through the dam.

The primary pond outlet should be protected from debris using a riser and an auxiliary spillway. A trash rack should be attached to the riser to prevent floating debris from clogging the pipe.

Before excavating a pond, seek advice from your county NRCS or Soil and Water Conservation District office. They can assist with soil surveys, site selection, and pond construction. Avoid constructing ponds in low areas and brushy wetlands. They may be prone to flooding and lack the dissolved oxygen needed for winter survival or the range of summer temperatures for fish habitat.