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Joined: Aug 2015
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ABandJB Offline OP
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Hey everyone. I'm new to the forums, and posted in another section asking about the location that I want to build a pond and whether it looks viable or not, and my next question is better suited here.

I found a soil report before I bought my land that indicates a decent amount of clay throughout the area. This soil report covers 1 section of land. My 6.3 acres is about a half mile or so away from here. I know that I need to test the precise location of my pond for soil content, but looking at this report, would you say that my dreams are looking bright or dim? Will I need to truck in clay or would I have a good chance of being able to use what I have. Thanks in advance. Here is the report:

The preliminary soil investigation of the site soils has determined that the soil is predominately
Mereta clay loam (MeA) in the proposed subdivision. There are also areas of the Angelo clay
loam (AnA), Slaughter clay loam (ShB), and Sagerton clay loam (OIA) series.
A portion ofthe site is MeA soils. A clay loam layer 0-6 inches deep, is followed by either a
clay, clay loam or silty clay 6-18 inches deep. A cemented hardpan exists 18-21 inches deep.
The hardpan is underlaid by a loam, clay loam or gravely clay loam from 21-80 inches deep.
Soil clay content is 30-45%. Gravel content ranges from 10-25%.
A representative profile for OIA consists of a clay loam layer, 0-10 inches deep, clay loam, clay
to from 10-32 inches deep, and clay loam, silty clay loam to a clay from 32-80 inches deep. The
OIA soils are generally considered to be very limited. Based on clay content, OIA soil would be
expected to be classified as a Class III or Class IV soil. Conventional OSSF mayor may not be
suitable for these soils. If the Class IV soils can be removed, conventional systems can be
installed in Class III soils, engineered systems including mounds, evapo-transpiration beds, low
pressure dosed, drip irrigation, or individual aerobic units followed by spray irrigation could be
considered for Class IV soils.
The site has few areas that consist ofthe ShB soils. A representative profile for ShB consists of
a clay loam layer, 0-6 inches deep, clay loam, clay from 6-16 inches deep and, a cemented hard
pan exists from 16-34 inches deep. The hardpan is underlaid by a loam, clay loam or gravely
clay loam from 21-80 inches deep. The ShB soils are generally considered to be very limited.
Based on clay content, ShB soil would be expected to be classified as a Class III or Class IV soil.
Conventional OSSF mayor may not be suitable for these soils. Ifthe Class IV soils can be
removed, conventional systems can be installed in Class III soils, engineered systems including
mounds, evapo-transpiration beds, low pressure dosed, drip irrigation, or individual aerobic units
followed by spray irrigation could be considered for Class IV soils.
The site has few areas that consist of the AnA soils. A representative profile for AnA consists of
a clay loam layer, 0-6 inches deep, clay, silty clay loam to a silty clay from 6-28 inches deep, and
clay loam, silty clay loam to a clay from 28-80 inches deep. The AnA soils are generally
considered to be very limited. Based on clay content, AnA soil would be expected to be
classified as a Class III or Class IV soil. Conventional OSSF mayor may not be suitable for
these soils. If the Class IV soils can be removed, conventional systems can be installed in Class
III soils, engineered systems including mounds, evapo-transpiration beds, low pressure dosed,
drip irrigation, or individual aerobic units followed by spray irrigation could be considered for
Class rv soils.
Note that the above discussion is based on documented soil types that would be expected to exist
in the proposed subdivision. Existing site conditions will need to be verified for each lot at the
time of OSSF installation by the installer or site evaluator.

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AB, I very nearly came to grief on my property by assuming that a red hill was red clay, perfectly suitable for dam construction. Then Mike Otto showed me the error of my ways, as the red was mostly iron oxide plus sand. Despite appearances, it would never work.

I say this just to warn you that even though clay may be in your neighborhood, it might have missed you, or it may not be the right kind or in the right spot.

Your report sounds reasonably promising from what this non-expert can tell, but you won't know for sure until you bring an experienced dirt guy out with a backhoe to dig a few trenches. In my case, we did find good clay (gray white, not red) eventually down near the creek bottom, thank God.

But I've heard that a gentleman living just a couple miles from me has almost zero clay. Despite warnings, he decided to go ahead with a dam anyhow. It failed within a few years. So please PLEASE bring out a good dirt guy to check before you build! cool


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Oh, I almost forgot...

If you want to do a quick & dirty (literally) evaluation for yourself, shovel down a few feet and grab the soil. Squeeze. If it is good clay and has any moisture, it will retain its shape after your stop squeezing. It will also feel somewhat tacky. (Don't let your wife see you doing this, especially if she has a camera handy.)

If it quickly falls apart, even with some moisture, it won't hold water for a pond.

Technically it's called the Permeability Index, the degree to which the soil allows water through. The higher the PI, the better it holds water. The government recommends a minimum PI of 18 to build a dam, but good pond builders usually want something over 25 as a safety margin. Mike Smelley, the dirt guy who actually built my dam, said the gray white clay on my property probably had a PI near 60, about as good as it gets. smile

Last edited by anthropic; 08/19/15 11:11 AM.

7ac 2015 CNBG RES FHM 2016 TP FLMB 2017 NLMB GSH L 2018 TP & 70 HSB PK 2019 TP RBT 2020 TFS TP 25 HSB 250 F1,L,RBT -206 2021 TFS TP GSH L,-312 2022 GSH TP CR TFS RBT -234, 2023 BG TP TFS NLMB, -160




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ABandJB Offline OP
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That's the reason I'm starting out here on the forums, to hear personal experiences from people such as yourself! Thank you for that. Honestly, I knew there would be some research to do before building a pond, but I'm a bit more excited to know that I didn't realize the half of it until finding these forums. The complexity actually intrigues me even more. The challenge will make the results even more rewarding!

I've been working to justify my decision to want to build a pond, so far, by making a simple topo map using Google Earth elevation data, using water runoff calculators based on the type of soil out there, and just in general, visualizing where the pond sits in relation to the proposed house to be built (so we can actually sit and enjoy it), and then now, becoming involved in these forums. I'm extremely happy that I found these forums to give me months more worth of great investigative resources to use. I NEVER jump into a project. I guess I'm known throughout my family to heavily research and become an expert in most every project that I take on. With that being said, I'm no expert yet on pond building.

I will absolutely run my own tests of the soil before proceeding with any work that is going to dip into the pocketbook. The pond will likely only be 5-6 deep at it's deepest, but I guess in all reality, that will depend on whether suitable clay lies beneath me. I have no objections to making the pond much deeper (10ft of so) if the soil type and watershed will allow it. As I dig into the forums and see other's projects, the dream I thought I had, seems to be changing. I kinda want the best of all worlds when it comes to how I will use the pond. I want to fish, relax around it, swim in it, and anything else that people do with small ponds. Haha. Talk to me after the experts give me a dose of reality, and I might say I just want some water that I can use to water the lawn when we don't get rain for 1-2 months at a time.

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ABandJB Offline OP
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Great advice! That's something that I can do without major equipment. (don't worry, I would never take the results of that test and run with it as if they are inconclusive evidence of good soil everywhere). No matter what I discover in the forums, and talking with everyone about it, I'll still consult a professional when it comes time to get the hard answers that I'll make my plans around. I want the pond to be perfect the first time. Like I said though, the use of the pond, based on the reality of MY situation, might make my PERFECT pond different from someone else's perfect pond.

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I'm the same way: The complexity is intriguing, because it forces me to learn, and learning is fun. That's why I preferred to build my own pond rather than buying an already established one, despite the extra expense and hassle.

You will never regret researching. However much you know, you will wish you knew even more when you begin building. There is SO MUCH to consider it is amazing!

Regarding the watershed, you are right to spend serious time looking at this issue. Personally, I think it is second only to soil conditions for a pond. Depending upon where you live, you might need only 6 acres of watershed to support 1 acre of pond, or you might need 300 acres. Rainfall, the slopes (steeper means less absorption so you get a larger share of rain in the pond), the soil (lots of sand means less runoff, clay means more), etc. Silt & erosion can be issues, too.

Honestly, you may have issues keeping a 5 or 6 foot deep pond in good shape in Texas. The water will get hotter, increasing evaporation. Sunlight will penetrate a big percentage of the pond, meaning weed problems. Under the wrong conditions you might get a fish kill due to lack of oxygen & cooler water.

Of course, you might not care if it is strictly for swimming, though the weeds would still likely be a problem. Just something to think about.

I'll shut up now and wish you the best of luck!


7ac 2015 CNBG RES FHM 2016 TP FLMB 2017 NLMB GSH L 2018 TP & 70 HSB PK 2019 TP RBT 2020 TFS TP 25 HSB 250 F1,L,RBT -206 2021 TFS TP GSH L,-312 2022 GSH TP CR TFS RBT -234, 2023 BG TP TFS NLMB, -160




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ABandJB Offline OP
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Great points. I hadn't considered deeper being better as far as the ecosystem goes. I would absolutely be willing to go deeper if possible at the expense of maybe reducing the total surface area. The total GUARANTEED water shed I'm dealing with is about 14 acres, with an average 1-2% slope. My hopes are that the clay content will be high enough to encourage runoff on the total 14 acres. Using an online calculator, I think my current thoughts of a 1/3 - 1/2 acre pond size are realistic. The big game changer will be whether I can tap into the street runoff. The next time it rains, I need to drive out there really quickly and see which side of the street the water runs onto. If I get lucky, and the water runs across my property entrance, then I'll be capturing water from the neighboring block, adding about 20 acres to the total watershed. We had a really wet May, June, and first half of July, then BAMMM, no rainfall more than a 1/10th of an inch since mid July.

I'm feeling antsy to go out there during/after a big thunderstorm! Today we've got a 40% chance. Fingers crossed.

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ABandJB Offline OP
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Does anyone here know of a place that I can possibly just mail soil samples to? I like to save move any chance that I get, so if I can dig down to different depths and get a mason jar full of soil or something, I would love to be able to send it to somebody and have them test it and see whether it is suitable for a pond liner.

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I don't know but you might contact A&M to start asking questions.


It's not about the fish. It's about the pond. Take care of the pond and the fish will be fine. PB subscriber since before it was in color.

Without a sense of urgency, Nothing ever gets done.

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I can't remember the specifics of exactly how to do a bucket test, but I read it here on PBF and maybe someone that does know the specifics will chime in and give them.

The gist of it goes something like this:

Get a 5 gallon bucket and drill some holes in the bottom. How many???? and how big????? I don't know but if I were to guess I would say a half dozen at 1/4".

Take a sample of the soil in question and moisten it to the point it will barely form a ball but is not mud. Damp enough it will compact but not muddy so it will squish. Mix well.

Fill the bucket about 2/3 full then tamp the soil down tight with the end of an ax handle or other suitable tamping stick. The idea being to tamp it down tight enough so it would be of the same compaction that the dam would be from whatever heavy equipment will be used for compaction.

Slowly fill the bucket with water and see if it either seals up and looses very little water or if the bucket goes dry after a while.

As I say, I don't remember the specifics of how to do the test. But the idea is to build a dam in a 5 gallon bucket and see if it holds water.

Don't expect the bottom to be bone dry because all soils will eventually take on water, even if properly compacted. But if the water runs right out you know you have poor soil to make a dam. If it holds pretty well it is good enough to warrant further tests by a professional.

Hope this helps. Maybe someone will have more specifics.

Last edited by snrub; 08/20/15 05:24 PM.

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Pretty good description snrub, but I'd only put in 1-2 inches of compacted clay in....fill the bucket, mark the water level, and wait a week. Cover the bucket to not have to guess at evaporation loss. A good sealing clay is losing no more than an inch or so of water....as best as I can recall.



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ABandJB Offline OP
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All great suggestions. I've heard of the bucket test, and will definitely give that a try when I get some time to go dig a bunch of holes. It's about a 15 minute drive out to my land, and work and family life has been a little busier than usual.

In addition to the bucket test, a family member teachers in the sciences, and has alot of extra graduated cylinders that I can have as well. I've seen one way to test the soil is by placing the soil, with water, into the cylinder. Shake it to completely disperse the particles, and let it settle for a few hours. The sand sinks first, then the silt, and the suspended clay particles eventually settle on top. Using the measurements on the cylinder will give the percentages of sand, silt, and clay.

I tried it last night in my back yard (here in the city, not out on my land where I want to build a pond) with just some water bottles, and it looks like near some hops that I'm growing in containers, I have about 23% clay, and near my garden, it's around 19% clay.

I'm curious now to go out on the land and give this a test. Last night as I was laying in bed, I was thinking about using a long drill bit of some sort to drill test holes my 2 or 3 feet deep to quickly get a bunch of samples. Has anyone ever done this?


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