Building A Retention Pond

By Robert Bennett , last updated February 4, 2011

When excessive runoff from rain is a problem, one solution is building a retention pond to control the water. In addition to the utility, a retention pond can also provide recreation use such as fishing, as long as it is stocked with species that can handle sudden influxes of rainwater. You'll need to make sure it's legal to build a pond, make a plan for excavation, and then actually dig your retention pond, but in the end it can be a massive improvement to your property.

Before You Build

The first step in building a retention pond is to check with the state, county/parish, or municipal land and water management offices to be sure there are no restrictions on the building of a pond and that building the pond won't have a negative effect on the water table or environment. Some areas will require a permit or a plan before building, and then an inspection afterwards to ensure that the plans were followed.

The location for the pond should be carefully chosen, usually at a low point in the area where the water tends to collect after a heavy rain. Strategic locations will ensure the least amount of manual or machine work has to be done, since gravity will provide the impetus for the flow of the water. At the same time, the location for the spillway, or the area where excess water will escape, should be chosen as well.

Dig the Pond

Begin by marking the area to be excavated, then begin digging the pond itself, using a backhoe to remove the dirt and to form a levee and the banks around the pond, working outward toward the edges. The depth can be anywhere from 3-6 feet, if the only purpose is to collect rainwater, or up to 15 feet if the pond is to be stocked with fish.

After the pond is excavated, heavy clay should be distributed across the bottom of the pond and tamped down with the heavy equipment used for digging. This clay layer should end up being at least a foot thick to seal the bottom of the bond and enable it to hold the water as opposed to allowing it to seep into the water table beneath the pond.

Next, a series of ditches should be dug to feed the rainwater into the pond. The ditches can also be lined with clay, rocks, or cement to allow the water to carry all the way to the pond and to assist in preventing erosion of the ditches.

Refine Your Pond

After all of the pond and ditch work is done, the final step for the heavy equipment is to build any roads, paths, or slopes to allow access to the pond for animals or for fishing. It is best to do this before the pond fills and is stocked with fish to prevent silting into the pond following a rain.

The last step is selecting any vegetation and fish that are desired. The type of vegetation and fish which are best for the area varies and the local agricultural office can provide valuable insight into the most appropriate and hardy species preventing the necessity for trial and error and reducing the expense involved.

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