Advice and considerations on digging a small farm pond

Wed Jul 11, 2007 10:49 am

Hi all
My wife and I are mulling over digging a small pond in our yard (about 60 x 100'or smaller). We live in and old stone house with cellar. Our property is approx. 250' x 400' half lawn and half tilled right down the center long ways. The place we would like to have the pond is a low spot in the tiled portion about 40-50' feet from the house that remains wet for a long time after rain and nothing will grow well there. Our well is front of the house and septic system is behind the house. The water table is pretty close to the surface on our property and there is a pond apout and 1/8 of a mile away and it is only slightly lower than our land. The pond will be used for irrigation at times, skating in the winter and a pleasing esthetic look. There are already cattails growing on the edge of the field so I don't think I am far from hitting water as it is. The cut from the digging will be used to fill other low areas in the field that also remain wet. Am I too close to the house for any risk? Will I affect my well water? Septic system? Any other consideratins?

Wed Jul 11, 2007 10:58 am


Here in the US, our Natural Resource Conservation Service of the US Dept. of Agriculture will assist landowners with the design and construction of farm ponds. I'm not sure what the corresponding agency is in Canada, but you may want to give them a call for assistance.

Wed Jul 11, 2007 12:26 pm

I was going to say the same thing as Don.

They also have free booklets on pond construction.

Another thought. The state universities have extension offices with considerable free farm related information. Also try the university web sites.

Don't get your hopes up. But sometimes there is funds available to help for farm and conservation related projects. Ask any way.

You asked about the well and septic system being affected. Some counties in the USA have a "Sanitation Officer". Part of his/her job deals with wells and septic systems.


Wed Jul 11, 2007 12:42 pm

First thing is do you have a dug well or a driven well. You say the place is tiled. Tiling is to take excess water away. This may affect your endeavor. As the others have said check it out with your federal and provincial as well as local people.
We had a question about one in NY State and the local DEC said as long as it is under an acre they are not involved.

Wed Jul 11, 2007 2:57 pm

I was thinking about how you expect to keep water in the pond. Is there a stream or spring to replenish evaporation. If not you will develop one goood mosquito breeding ground, that will fill with green scum each summer and absorb most or all the available oxygen when it decomposes this will kill any and possibly all fish you have stocked.
All this said I have a pond. I have springs and a seasonal creek feeding mine. Mine is 3 1/2 acres and 10 1/3 feet deep for most of it. It was built by a PO and is contained by a large dam. There is an 18 inch discharge pipe as well as a 20 foot wide overflow area. In the 400 year storm a year ago June it ran over a foot deep. I had not mowed the grass in the overflow area or the bank it runs down when overflowing. It looked like close cut with all the seed heads and large leaves gone. Fortunately this clipping the grass and weeds slowed the rate of flow, that there were no wash outs.
We bought the place in 1984 and this is the second time the overflow had to do what it was designed to do. The first time a smaller pond up the mounbtain let go in a hurricand and mine absorbed the flow and slowed it down enought to prevent a disaster down stream.
A neighbor (2 miles south) dug an acre and a half pond 5 years ago. It fills in the spring melt off and drops even quicker than the water table. He is near a stream and if my sense of distance and elevations is as good as I think it is, the water drops to just a little above stream height once the frost gets out of the ground. My neighbor across the road dug one in a horse pasture. Joe's pond would not hold watr well either. Some old timers said to cover the pond in the winter with horse manure bedding and all. Two years later it held water much better. Joe dug it in a wet spot and we figure there is a small spring in the pond. I hesitqate to call it a mountain behind that pasture but there is certainly one high hill I guess to be 900 to 1000 feet. I realize I rambled on. I provide it as food for thought. You certainly don't want a big dry hole as I understand it.

Wed Jul 11, 2007 3:26 pm

Thanks for the insight fellas. This is exactly what I am looking for.
We have both a dug and a drilled well in the front yard. The field is both tilled and tiled. I'm not sure where the tile runs or if in the area in question at all because it does stay wet for a good while after a rain. The low spots in my neighbours field which is as low as we are seem to hold some water all year long because my kids used to skate on that puddle in the winter. I am pretty sure the water table is pretty close to the surface in our fields in wet times, also all the rain/ spring runoff comes down the hill from my other neighbours field and runs across this spot. I was thinking of digging and building a dam to hold the water. Like I said the cattails are pretty thick right there so there must be ample wetland to support them. Evaporation if only runoff is feeding the pond
is an important consideration.

Thu Jul 12, 2007 10:51 am

Dams are another subject. Do your reasearch on these. First they need a core of blue clay or other material thet will stop the flow of water. Then they have to be sloped gently enough that the soil is at a lesser angle thean the angle of repose and so that wave action will not degrade it.
Another comsideration is that outer bank not be so steep nor so long you can not keep the grass cut.
A means of out flow of excess water has to be provided. The first consideration on this is that the normal excess be able to exit with no errosion. The second is that severe storms have an additional way to exit, again with no wash out or errosion.
It can be done but it ain't easy. Bass and bull heads will do well in a small "Farm Pond" as New York State DEC calls them. Trout need colder water at least 10 or 11 feet deep with a pebbly shore to propagate.

Have Fun

Thu Jul 12, 2007 7:12 pm

Wet land. You might want to check in to local and national governmental regulations or laws pertaining to existing wet lands.

Big trouble in some portions of the USA to disturb an existing wet land - doesn't matter how small the area is.


Fri Jul 13, 2007 10:05 am

Definitely watch out for wetland regs and for septic/water system regs. In Vermont, the dimensions you mentioned would be a nonstarter for house, septic, well and pond. Nice if you can do it, though!

Sat Jul 14, 2007 9:07 pm

Lots of good info given here by the members. If you get the approval for the pond and proceed, one of my friends have a pond about the size you are considering and he line it with clay and has a well with 5hp motor just for the pond to fill as needed and it aerates it too. He also puts a chemical in it to block the sun rays which controls weed growth. He has filled it with fish from fishing trips. He has no algea or weed problems and is very pretty blue....The kids have swam in it as well as I.
I wish you the best of luck.
I dug a small pond 10'x25'x4' and put in a pond liner EPDM, pump, waterfall & a home made biofilter. This keeps it very clean.