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#78421 - 11/07/06 12:38 PM How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
DonB Offline
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Registered: 11/07/06
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Just wondering how long (on average) it takes a new pond to seal and hold water. I just had one finished (1/2 acre +/-) a few weeks ago with a couple of good (3" total) rains and it keeps SLOWLY going down. I'd say I'm losing about 1/2" a day. It will fill a 6" to a foot and then over a week will slowly come down. Seems like it will NEVER fill!

Should I be concerned? The "digger" says to give it some time, a lot of dirt was disturbed and it needs to "settle down".

Do you agree?

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#78422 - 11/07/06 01:42 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
Theo Gallus Offline
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IIRC it's on the order of 6 months to a year.
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#78423 - 11/07/06 02:39 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
Rhinodogg Offline
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Registered: 11/06/06
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Loc: Flat Rock, Indiana
My 1/2 acre pond took about 4 months. 15' deep, but still about 1.5' shy of being full. We've had a bunch of rain here in Indiana this summer and fall.

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#78424 - 11/07/06 04:59 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
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...interesting thread. I have been monitoring the same thing in our new pond project. I don't have a measuring rod, but the water is still low enough that the corrugated drain filter case is still exposed. I can use it for water level reference. It seems that I might be losing 1" - 2" per week. As I am absentee, it is difficult to do a scientific bench test, but when it goes down an inch or two in a week in cool, Fall weather, it seems like more than evap.
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#78425 - 11/07/06 06:12 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
dave in el dorado ca Offline
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Welcome to PB DonB, tell us a little more about yer pond, did you have to import clay to seal it, or was it dug in native clay....any other types of soils or rock present? was there groundwater present when you dug pond? if yer construction techniques were good, it is likely just absorption into pond substrate and sides, however, if there is any hydraulic communciation under the dam or between the pond bottom or sides to the water table aquifer or coarser grained soils, you might have some reverse flow and hence seepage from pond, if its slow seepage and rainfall and other factors (creek, spring) can keep up with it than no problems.
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#78426 - 11/07/06 08:21 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
Bill Cody Offline
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All dirt leaks water through it. It is a matter of degree. The amount of leakage is dependant on numerous things. Most of my experience is with dug out ponds that have clay liners or core trenches. Typically if a clay lined pond is leaking when it is first filled, you have soils that were either not compacted properly or not enough good clay liner was installed in the vacinity of the leak.

For a pond built by daming a ravine then I think it is about how much clay compaction occured along the banks and how the dam was built. I would think if you just damed a ravine then expect water to leak through a lot of the side walls especially in areas where the contractor may not have cored and compacted the side walls throughly or properly. Ponds built with a dam typically rely on a lot of water from the water shed to keep them full. Those people with ponds having dams can add more insight to this topic.

Bottom line, if a pond is supposed to be water tight, I do not understand why it will not properly hold water when first filled. Any disturbed soils should be properly compacted so there is no "settle down" period. Sounds to me like the contractor is hoping for some fine clays or particles to get sucked into the seepage areas and slow the water loss. If the seepage is slowed in this manner I would think this "leak spot" would be a very tenuous seal and always susceptable to leakage.

Good dug out, water tight ponds properly built in heavy clay soils in my area basically lose water primarily to evaporation. During extended summer dry periods of 40 to 60 days water loss in these ponds is typically 12" maximum. More loss than that suggest leaks are to blame. A leaky pond is difficult to cheaply and properly fix. THAT IS WHY TAKING TIME IN CHOOSING THE BEST CONTRACTOR AND NOT THE CHEAPEST CONTRACTOR IS VERY VERY IMPORTANT.

Comments from others with experience with slow sealing ponds?
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#78427 - 11/07/06 08:35 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
Theo Gallus Offline
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My experience was that the lowest my pond has ever been was in the first Summer it was full. This was only about 3" lower than it has ever been since, and of course one Summer's rainfall differs from all others.

It does seem to me that during the initial period after a pond fills, all the soil in contact with it below the water line is becoming saturated with water as it (very slowly) seeps in. Once the soil is soaked, this process never repeats (unless the pond were emptied for a substantial period of time.

I guess I wouldn't call this "sealing", though, just the initial soaking of a very large, very dense, not at all porous sponge.
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#78428 - 11/07/06 08:48 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
Bill Cody Offline
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Theo - please explain where the saturation or soaking of the soils stops. If the soil forming the basin is at all uniform why wouldn't the soaking process continue until the seepage finds a path of least resistance? Where does the seepage stop especially if the seepage finds or encounters loose, gravelly or sandy soils? I can see this soaking-saturation process occurring if the clay basin is overlain with some loose soils, BUT why use some loose soils in the first place to form a pond basin that is supposed to hold water? If you are gong to make a pond or bowl that holds water why put dirt in it that will soak up water? Why not line the entire bowl with as impervious soil as possible?
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#78429 - 11/07/06 09:41 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
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Bill,
In my case, our 5 acre footprint was a very gradual oval bowl with one narrow end that remained low, between 2 hills, where the dam was constructed. The majority of the basin was filled with hundreds of years of run-off sediment in the form of topsoil and silt. There was so much that we elected to leave alot of it within the pond. We had to cut thru 6 - 7 ft of this soil to get to the thick blue clay layer below, extracting this clay to line our built-up building site pad. I will say, tho, that this 6 - 7' layer was the thickest area of topsoil/silt. It was 3 ft thick at the other end, near the dam. As we moved up the slopes to the level where the water level would terminate as a shoreline, the layer was about 10" thick. When I quizzed my contractor on whether this would be an issue, he explained that the water would soak into this loose soil until it hits the clay liner waiting below.
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#78430 - 11/08/06 08:56 AM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
Bill Cody Offline
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Brettski - What you say is understandable. My next question is then how confident are "we" or is anyone that the ENTIRE pond basin has a completely adequate subsoil of clay? If the intended basin has one or a few HIDDEN subsoil zones that contain small or medium sized areas or pockets of loose materials then expect these pockets to be the main seepage spots. In cases where ponds are built in this manner - It becomes a gamble. It is no wonder that many ponds including dug out holes for ponds have various degrees of leakage.
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#78431 - 11/08/06 09:21 AM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
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...agreed, Bill. I am working with a calculated risk, in my case.
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#78432 - 11/08/06 10:28 AM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
Meadowlark Offline
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Interesting discussion. I've always heard the "wait a year" and let your pond settle out advice(and probably repeated it also), but my experience on ponds we've built is that they either leaked initially and the leaks didn't stop until repaired or they didn't leak at all, at least noticeably or unacceptably. Leaks can be confused with absorption, which I've also experienced. In ponds I've built, we always use some of the sandy soils above the clay layers to create underwater structures, submerged islands, etc. These areas, in dry conditions, can absorb considerable water as the pond fills...but that effect is short term in my experience.

Don, if I had a 1/2 inch per day water loss this time of year, I would be concerned and trying to find any evidence of where the water may be going. Seems to me that most of your absorption would have been satisfied with the two 3 inch rains you mentioned. On the other hand, other than look very carefully for water evidence, and without finding any evidence, I wouldn't take any drastic steps. I would give it some time and carefully measure true loss rates to discern if indeed, the loss rates are decreasing. If they aren't decreasing after a couple of months, then I'd be after my contractor for action.

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#78433 - 11/08/06 11:30 AM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
eddie_walker Offline
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So far, I have 4 feet of water in mine and the water level hasn't drope at all. We seem to get a rain about once a week, sometimes two weeks go by without anything.

I have a screen over my drain pipe that has 2 inch squares on it that's very visable and easy to see. It has not droped a single inch so far.

If it does, then I think I have a bad spot in my dam and I'll have to find it and fix it.

Eddie
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#78434 - 11/08/06 01:48 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
Theo Gallus Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Bill Cody:
Theo - please explain where the saturation or soaking of the soils stops. If the soil forming the basin is at all uniform why wouldn't the soaking process continue until the seepage finds a path of least resistance? Where does the seepage stop especially if the seepage finds or encounters loose, gravelly or sandy soils? I can see this soaking-saturation process occurring if the clay basin is overlain with some loose soils, BUT why use some loose soils in the first place to form a pond basin that is supposed to hold water? If you are gong to make a pond or bowl that holds water why put dirt in it that will soak up water? Why not line the entire bowl with as impervious soil as possible?
Here are my main operating assumptions:

1) All soils, including the best clay packed in the best manner, will pass water through them. The rate that it passes through varies greatly depending on soil type:
Sand/gravel: don't blink, you'll miss the water going through.
Topsoil: you can blink, but don't bother holding your breath.
Good clay: Passes very little water; a miniscule or negligable amount.

2) When we finish a pond's construction, the soil in the dam and bowl are not saturated with water (or they'd be too wet to work in).

If I'm wrong on those assumptions, please stop reading and correct me.

Now, my thoughts:

Water NEVER stops soaking through a pond's dam and basin. The water will soak in slightly faster at first, until the soil below the water line becomes saturated, then seep through at a slower rate and pass into whatever aquifer lies under the pond.

If the pond is of good clay and is constructed as well as possible, we may never notice either of these losses, and probably won't ever have to worry about them if we do. With less desirable soils and/or construction, we are more likely to notice the loss and, unfortunately, have to worry about it. In some ponds, we easily notice and worry about the initial soaking-in loss, then when it slows down after saturation occurs all is well enough. This last situation is what I am thinking of when we talk about a pond "sealing" itself.

All ponds should be constructed perfectly with perfect clay, but realistically, it's not going to happen 100% of the time. Some locations won't allow it, some budgets can't afford it, and some "construction sequences will be less than optimum", to euphemistically avoid discussing shoddy practices.

In the case where a pond bottom has areas of different water permeability, I think water will pass through the entire bottom at differents rates in the different areas.

Does any of that make sense?
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#78435 - 11/08/06 04:51 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
ewest Offline
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We need to get George and DIED in on this as they can explain permeability and porosity of soils and rocks.

Porosity is indirectly related to hydraulic conductivity; for two similar sandy aquifers, the one with a higher porosity will typically have a higher hydraulic conductivity (more open area for the flow of water), but there are many complications to this relationship. Clays, which typically have very low hydraulic conductivity also have very high porosities (due to the structured nature of clay minerals), which means clays can hold a large volume of water per volume of bulk material, but they do not release water very quickly.

Sorting and porosity

Effects of sorting on alluvial porosity
Well sorted (grains of approximately all one size) materials have higher porosity than similarly sized poorly sorted materials (where smaller particles fill the gaps between larger particles). The graphic illustrates how some smaller grains can effectively fill the pores (where all water flow takes place), drastically reducing porosity and hydraulic conductivity, while only being a small fraction of the total volume of the material.


In the earth sciences, permeability (commonly symbolized as κ, or k) is a measure of the ability of a material (typically, a rock or unconsolidated material) to transmit fluids. It is of great importance in determining the flow characteristics of hydrocarbons in oil and gas reservoirs, and of groundwater in aquifers.

The intrinsic permeability of any porous material is:

κI = C X d2

where

κI is the intrinsic permeability [L2]
C is a dimensionless constant that is related to the configuration of the flow-paths
d is the average, or effective pore diameter [L]


] Yes many rocks(not talking about gravel or broken or fractured ones but solid rock layers) can have fluids run through them under pressure. Also clay when dry absorbs water and expands until water will no longer be absorbed and it creates a seal subject to pressure. Porosity is the space between grains of soil or rock and fluid will flow through them limited by force needed to get the fluid through the pore space.

Now George or DIED can fix what I poorly explained.
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#78436 - 11/08/06 05:47 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
dave in el dorado ca Offline
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thanks for calling out for the geo's ewest, but you did a fine job. an unintuitive physical property of clays is their high porosity and capacity to store water...well put....yet at the same time, their extremely low permeability limits the movement of that water....hydraulic conductivity (K) is basically the rate or speed at which water (or any fluid) can move through a particular media. Bill is correct in that all soils leak, its just a matter of how fast.

I apologize if I offend anyone with the following simple science, but it helps me to put things in terms that even my mosquito fish can understand. ewest hit all the important points about stuff moving through other stuff....in relation to permeability, porosity, conductivity, tortuosity (the flow paths), but for me all other things being equal, and envisioning leaky ponds i think primarily about how fast the water moves through whatever type of soil. So here are some example ranges of K (hydraulic conductivity) for different soil types just for comparisons sake......K is also given in metric units (i.e. cm/s or m/s) but my mind still thinks in inches and feet so I use gallons per day per square foot………..

Gravel : 10E4 to 10E6 gallons/day/ft2 (10E4 is scientific notation for 10 to the 4th power which is 10x10x10x10 = 10,000 - which means between 10,000 to over 1,000,000 gallons of water can pass through a square foot of gravel in one day!!)

Silty Sand to Clean Sand : 1 - 10E3 gal/day/ft2 (10E3 = 1000 gallons = gushing pond leakage)

Silts : 10E-2 to 1 gal/day/ft2 (which means 0.01 to 1 gallon of water can pass through a square foot of pure silt in one day, if multiplied by square footage of pond = very leaky pond…..you can see where we’re headed for clay….)

Clay : 10E-4 to10E-6 gal/day/ft2 (which means 0.0001 to 0.000001 gallons of water through the square foot of clay which equates to a leaky pond only on geologic time, this is a good tight pond seal).

this thread is a classic for leaky ponds containing many great insights, speculations, and statements above (theo, bill, brettski, eddie, ML...all yous guys), but IMHO to really help DonB we need to hear back from him about his construction techniques to help determine whether its just absorption into new pond lining or an actual seep. Hope the explanation on conductivity helps a few of you lurking get a feeling for why clay works so good.

My personal situation prior to renovation was hydraulic driven seepage through bedrock on pond side of dam, with water daylighting in creek below dam. In brief, this was mostly remedied by a lot of digging, cleaning, grooming and installing a well compacted mixed native and imported clay liner within deepest areas of pond subject to the greatest hydraulic pressure.
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#78437 - 11/08/06 08:46 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
ewest Offline
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Thanks DIED that is a classic example (how much water flows through) and one we all can understand. \:\)
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#78438 - 11/08/06 08:56 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
Robinson Offline
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I appreciate all the advanced science of soils, believe me, but see nobody saying, some clay breaks down a bit, when submerged, and blend with other soils, making them more clayish, hence making these blended soils, in combination, tend to seal.

I've heard of ponds filling two or three times and leaking all the way down before a seal is made. I do think Bill has the right answer though, don't trust your pond to time driven sealing. Compact it down with good clay and seal it yourself.

Interesting thread.
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#78439 - 11/08/06 09:26 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
zhkent Offline
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Lets say a good earthen dam and core is built in a draw thats going downhill and has porus soils.
Each side and the bottom of the draw has solid non porus material that the core was dug into.
When the pond fills, the porus soils that are in the basin area of the pond would fill with water also, possibly very slowly.
I think this happens at some pond sites.
I would not think of this as a leak, since the water cannot escape through the sides, bottom, or past the dam.
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#78440 - 11/09/06 09:03 AM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
ewest Offline
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Robinson I think you have described sorting. Different types of dirt have different grain sizes. When they are mixed and wet they exhibit sorting. I should have taken time to post the pic with the first post.

Well sorted (grains of approximately all one size) materials have higher porosity than similarly sized poorly sorted materials (where smaller particles fill the gaps between larger particles). The graphic illustrates how some smaller grains can effectively fill the pores (where all water flow takes place), drastically reducing porosity and hydraulic conductivity, while only being a small fraction of the total volume of the material.




http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Porosity


When dry clay is mixed with other dirt the aggregate has grains of different sizes. Water flows through the pore spaces between the grains not the dirt. When the mixture gets wet the grain size of the clay increases (swells as it absorbs water)reducing the pore space volume and the smaller other dirt grains sort to clog the remaining pore spaces to form a seal. Compaction helps because it binds the grains and reduces the pore spaces.

The water in a new/renovated pond may look like it is leaking for a while as its clay/soil mix absorbs water reducing pore space and goes through sorting and sealing. Once that process finishes it should be sealed and not lose water except through evaporation (unless there is a real leak ).
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#78441 - 11/09/06 09:30 AM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
Robinson Offline
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Thanks ewest. Don't defer and be humble about your knowlege of soils. I take it that you may not work in them every day, but your information is of great help to many. I did not know the term........sorting. Thanks again.
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#78442 - 11/09/06 07:54 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
Bill Cody Offline
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zhkent says " When the pond fills, the porus soils that are in the basin area of the pond would fill with water also, possibly very slowly.
I think this happens at some pond sites.
I would not think of this as a leak, since the water cannot escape through the sides, bottom, or past the dam."

I agree with this comment, but how long would you estimate the soaking process to take? I realize it depends a lot on the thickness of porus soils in the basin. HOwever the soaking process should not take much longer than a month or two should it?
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#78443 - 11/09/06 09:12 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
ewest Offline
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Bill like ML I have heard wait a year before taking any corrective steps. But this is not wrt a pond with a obvious leak.
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#78444 - 11/10/06 07:02 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
zhkent Offline
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Here goes a rough calculation of how long it would take to saturate porus materials in the basin of a non-leaking pond.
Pond 1 acre. Porus material in basin 2 acres and dry. The porus material would hold almost the same amount of water as the pond.
So the pond fills, goes down to half full.
Pond fills again, goes down to 3/4.
Pond fills again, goes down to 7/8.
Pond fills again, goes down to 15/16.

Pond 1 acre. Porus material in basin 1/2 acre and dry. Porus material would hold almost 1/4 of the pond.
Pond fills, goes down to .765 full.
Pond fills again, goes down to about .95 full.

A new pond owner who watches his pond drop in days or months to 1/2 or 3/4 full is going to freak out some, and there may not be a problem.
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#78445 - 11/10/06 07:08 PM Re: How long does it take for a new pond to seal?
dave in el dorado ca Offline
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 Quote:
Originally posted by Robinson:
I appreciate all the advanced science of soils, believe me, but see nobody saying, some clay breaks down a bit, when submerged, and blend with other soils, making them more clayish, hence making these blended soils, in combination, tend to seal.

I've heard of ponds filling two or three times and leaking all the way down before a seal is made. I do think Bill has the right answer though, don't trust your pond to time driven sealing. Compact it down with good clay and seal it yourself.

Interesting thread.
Great point Robinson, we've just been speaking in "endmember" terms......in practice, I would strongly recommend blending any pure clay with native soils (unless of course yer lucky enough to have a mile of clay like brettski does). For myself and probably most other folks though they have inadequate native soils and need to help them. Installing a pure clay layer can lead to similar bad issues as installing an artificial liner particularly if its installed dry and/or not thick enough (water will "communicate" through it and seep out) and also if pond drys below certain point clay will shrink and crack and not heel properly when re-wetted. By blending with native (coarser) materials but keeping the % of clay rather high in the overall mix, then with proper compaction and moisture it can be bulletproof and much less likely to dramatically shrink and swell and fail. in affect like ewest illustrated, re-sorting your pond dirt so its poorly sorted and clay rich.

there are natural gravelly or sandy clay deposits out in our area that hold water really well (dug out by gravel companies) which is an extreme example of ewests pic on the right.

to further muddy the situation, there are lots of different types of clay (montmorillonite, kaolinite, bentonite....to name a couple) each having different properties, for example bentonite is a huge sweller which is why drillers and pond builders like it......kaonlinite is not. the word clay technically refers only to the grain size of the particles making up the soil, and there are many different types of clay sized particles.
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