Building a Pond and the Significance of Topography

Ponds can create a Zen-like atmosphere and add a beautiful aesthetic to any yard or property. However, nothing is worse than building a pond and not being able to reap the benefits because of poor construction and placement. There are many things to consider when building a pond like the significance of topography.

Topography is used to identify features like shape, height, and depth of a land’s surface and recognize typical landform patterns. It is used for detailed information about terrain and surface features that are essential for the planning and construction of a pond or landscape design.  It is important in determining both where you can site a pond as well as determining what type of pond you should build.  There are three main types of ponds; embankment, excursion/excavated, and combination. In addition, knowing what purpose your pond serves can help to determine where and what type of pond to build. For example, ponds constructed for fish and wildlife production or recreation are designed and constructed for easy access, adequate volume, and water level manipulation. These are usually excursion or excavated ponds that are easily constructed, particularly in areas of flat topography.

The site selection is one of the most important processes in creating a pond. A good pond site includes level topography that provides for cost-effective construction, soil with adequate clay to hold water, and a sufficient water supply. Prior to finalizing the site, we recommend examining all potential sites considering economics, accessibility, and safety. To be most cost efficient, build a pond that provides the largest volume of water with the least amount of landfill. Level topography will decrease the need for costly soil removal. Because a pond is simply a depression for holding water, the dam and bottom must be composed of soil, which minimizes seepage. Thick clays are the most impermeable of soils and due to this, make by far the best soil substrates for pond building and reduce the risk of leakage and reconstruction.

The water supply must be enough to rapidly fill the pond and maintain a relatively constant water level that does not fluctuate significantly throughout the year. Ponds with large overflows of water flush essential nutrients and allow fish to escape. Many people with embankment types of ponds use surface run off as a source of water as the dam is built between two steep hillsides, which allow the runoff/watershed to fill the dam. The principal determining factor to using this source is how much watershed do you have and how big do you want your pond?  If your watershed is grassy field, you can get by with as little as 5 acres per surface acres of water.  In some areas with very permeable soil that is perhaps in cultivated fields, it may require several hundred acres per surface acre of water to be a sufficient watershed. In places with flat topography, ground water usually has the highest quality to support aquatic life. Ground water and tap water, also commonly used, may contain excess minerals which are harmful to fish and other aquatic life so be sure to test the water and use treatments like chlorine remover, pond cleaner tablets to introduce beneficial bacteria and eliminate harmful toxins, and algaecide to prevent algae blooms.

Taking into account the topography of your landscape will help you to determine the most adequate place and water source to build your dream pond. Get out there and start planning and constructing so you can enjoy your water garden this season!