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Hello all, I dug a pond about a month and a half ago. Started filling it with a spring that is piped over to the pond. The spring runs about 3 gallons per minute. The pond was built on a slope and all the dug ground was taken to the low side to build the berm of the pond. The top soil was all striped and all soil below that held a ball when squeezed with your fist. Its final height should be about 12 feet but I have hit about 6 feet and its not going any higher for over a week. It was going up rather nice, about 1" per day but slowed and then finally stopped. I could state another 10 pages of facts but the only one that seems relevant is the pond was rolled with a giant pay loader once completed. Its a 30 ton machine on rubber tires and compacted 20 times better than the dozer or excavator I was using. Should I start worrying, it sealing with chemicals easier than I think or could this be seepage in a newly dug pond??? I am in Central Pa and haven't had much rain either. Thanks in advance!

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Rebuck, welcome to the site. How frustrating to have your pond built, then not fill.
Can you see any wet spots behind the dam anywhere? Was there a rock seam in the bottom during the build?


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Hey cmm. Thanks so much for taking time to understand my issues. We didn't hit ANY rock! It's was very odd cause my house is 1/4 acre from this pond and it took 150 sticks of dynamite to get my foundation in. Very shaley around here but this pond is in the bottom land of a big valley. I maybe saw three or four rocks total and they were round river Rock looking. I am about 200' away from a medium size creek which is where I will overflow to if I ever fill up and about 60 feet from a healthy spring that ran through the very dry summer we had. Some of our clay had a sandy consistency but always was able to ball in your hand and got really "bitchy" when rolled with the big loader.

Thanks again. Any advise, words of wisdom or comfort are welcome.

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Hindsight is 20/20, but the preferred way to compact soil is in 6"-8" lifts with a sheepsfoot roller. Do this 3-4 times so the layers knit together.

As water depth increases, water pressure increases at the lower reaches of the pond. Roughly 1/2 psi for every foot water depth.

Keep the water going in, it could be that the soil just needs to absorb more water before the level starts rising. If not, then I would look at SoilFloc Polymer Sealant. Talk to teehjaeh57 for more information on it.

I have a water table pond, in sand. If the water table drops, I can increase the pond level, but the water seeps out at the rate of 18 GPM, so unless I keep pumping in water faster than that, it's a loosing battle.

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Welcome to PBF Rebuck!

I'm not a pro but here's a couple of thoughts...

IMHO All ponds lose water to some extent, even if just thru evaporation. As Esshup pointed out, if you have a "leak" that can increase those loses significantly.

Perhaps another consideration...You stated that your water flow in is only 3 GPM. You haven't provided any info on size of the pond but, unless the slope is straight up and down, the amount the pond rises per unit of water input will decrease as the pond gets deeper and the surface area increases. It may be you are reaching equilibrium where losses are near 3 GPM so the pond will continue to rise very little, if at all. Do you have a substantial area of water shed that can provide a large influx of water during a significant rain event to help fill the pond?

Good luck and, again, welcome to PBF!

Bill D.

Last edited by Bill D.; 10/24/16 08:00 PM. Reason: Typo

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My pond is just around an acre of disturbed soil. Its an oval shape with the long end around 300 feet by 175 feet wide. All the springs are on the other side of the road from me but they collect through a 24" culvert. I collect the outlet of this culvert into a big box and run 4" pipe from the box to the pond. I am only running that pipe about 1/20th of what it can handle so if I got a good rain, I will send a lot of water to the pond. One of the reasons I still have some hope of this working is we haven't had more than 1/10th an inch of rain per week since I started filling the pond. Last weekend there was flash floods about 50 miles north of us with 7 inches of rain in 4 hours but we got around 1/10".

I think one of the issues I am having is compaction of the undisturbed side. We focused a lot of effort on removing dirt from the high side and building the berm on the low side. The berm is about 12 feet or so high. There was a 5 foot deep key way cut all the way around the low side. The berm was built about 12" at a time and then compacted with an excavator and dozer. After all completed we rolled it in with the big loader I have talked about but we really didn't do anything to the side we were removing the dirt from. The guy helping construct this wasn't worried about that part of the dam at all. He stated it will eventually saturate but the low side could leak and get worse fast.

I have no leaks on the low side that I can tell. I have an 8" overflow and drain that goes 40' through the berm and I can see no seepage through there either. Maybe a pic would help. I will see if I can find a few to post. Thanks again for your interest!

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This is a picture of the final rolling of the pond. We just started adding water to the pond at this point and the loader was almost done rolling in the berm but we didn't spend much time on the existing side where we removed the material from.

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This is where we are currently. I have that iron pipe pounded in the ground and a tape measure taped to it every foot so I can closely measure things.

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I would give it time.

3 GPM is nothing, for a pond that size. If you said 50, well then you might be more concerned.

A new pond that size will fill the bottom up quickly. Remeember the volume in a bottom , per inch, of a pond is nothing compared to the volume once you get half way up. Then it takes a lot more water to fill. Sounds like that is what happened.

Give it time, with some nice rain falls, and see where it is at. Even then, it will drop and need some more to refill back up. Then it will be a matter of occasional rains to get a basis of water loss versus fill-up.

You might survey your property when it does rain and see if there is anyplace you can create a swale to capture more runoff faster, if you should need it later on.

Like Esshup says, hindsight. But can't do much more without costing some money. And it might be money spent but not needed because of patience. Wait and see what happens in the next year. Start your stocking plans while you are waiting. Lining up what you need and when. That will help pass the time.

Patience......

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Thanks... I just happened to be filling a pond during the driest time I can remember. We are about 7 inches short on rainfall in my county and other parts of the county got WAY more rain that we did.

The pond is filling with leaves. Will that hurt or help seepage? I tend to think that gunk it turns into will help but I also fear that if I have to chemically treat these leaks, they will hinder progress.

I have no real way to capture runoff faster. There isn't much except for the culvert on my side of the road. I used to have a 55 gallon drum with a 1" pipe feeding the pond but I switched to a tool box with a 4" outlet. Even in hard rains I have not seen that pipe full and I was down there in pouring conditions. 1/2 full is the best I have seen it but that is about 12 times better than what I have normally. We also have not had a "gully washer" yet. At first I was liking the no rain because the berm and surroundings had no grass to knit them together but now I have some decent grass everywhere so let it rain. Something like an inch per day for 10 days. Then I can reassess!

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Originally Posted By: fish n chips
I would give it time.........
Patience......



+1 to have patience

Some rough numbers...

A 1 acre pond with average depth of 6 feet holds about 2 million gallons of water. At 3 GPM that is about 460 days to fill assuming no losses to evaporation, seepage, etc.

Rain would be great!


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Quick update.... Got a little rain. I have been loosing 1/16in per day. It rose almost exactly 1/4 inch from a 1/4 inch of rain. Since I have been trying to fill this pond we have not had more than 1/4 inch of rain at a time. No real rain again in the 7 day look ahead. As I drive I look around and see many other ponds in the area low. I wonder if they were low before and I missed it or if its extremely dry right now. My wife and I also looked a little closer at the in feed pipe and we are both pretty sure its more 3GPM but we haven'[t measured it yet. I can't wait for a "gully washer" to see if I come up more than the rainfall amount.

To clarify another question from above, I am collecting the watershed of about 50 acres. Spring fed 99% of the time and when it rains I collect that also but the rain we have gotten for two months has only soaked in, not run off yet. Very dry!

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The problem with spring fed ponds is that if the water table is low and the spring stops feeding the pond, the water reverses in the spring and goes out of the pond.

Same thing happens if the water pressure at the spring opening in the pond is higher than the water pressure IN the spring.

There is no one way valve on a spring, water flows both ways, depending on what has more pressure, the pond or the spring.


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Hello esshup and thanks for your input. I'm not an expert and appreciate anyone who would take time to read about my delema and take time to comment. So thanks.

That being said, I'm confused. Maybe I didn't explain and if so, sorry. But maybe I have the wrong mental model and have to come up with another plan....

I live in a deep valley. The springs come out of the ground about 100 yards above the pond and run constantly down through our hollow. The water crosses the main highway here through a 24" colvert. I collect the water on the down stream side of the big pipe and run it into a 4" pipe to the pond another 100' away. I could see the springs ebb and flow directly affecting my pond if it was under it or below it but would it really have a direct affect if the spring is so far above and away? Could be, if so, I'm gonna need some advice. I'm staying constant between 75-76 inches and need at least double that for it to start looking normal. If I don't increase significantly by end of spring, I'm going to start pumping from the nearby creek but my wife and others feel we would be so much cleaner if we stayed with the spring feed rather than the creek with everyone's "garbage" upstream. Any input would be appreciated. I talked to an old guy at the Mason's building this weekend and he said he couldn't remember a time when their pond was lower. That made me feel a little better. We will see.

Thanks in advance!

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You are good. I was under the assumption that the spring was "in" the pond.

New ponds take time to have all the newly excavated dirt absorb all the water to saturation. So, in a new pond it is common for the water to rise and fall as the dirt soaks up the water. Once the dirt is saturated, then it should hold water pretty well. Ponds don't seal like a bathtub, they all leak a little - it's the nature of the beast, but you really want to have more water coming in than goes out whenever possible.


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The amount of water soaked up by a new pond depends a lot on the type of dirt comprising the basin and the amount of thick or deep layer compaction of the basin or liner. The minimal recommended compacted clay layer as a liner is usually 2 ft thick. In dug ponds in my area with good well compacted clay for a liner that is usually 8 ft wide/thick, there is basically no immediate visible water loss once the pond is filled. The pond is filled and stays basically full until evaporation causes water loss. The looser the composition of bottom soil in a pond the more water absorption that will occur especially if there is some sort of leak through loose or improperly compacted soil. Basically all dirt bottom ponds leak, the difference is the degree of leakage from minimal to measurable loss per day.

Once you get rains with a decent amount of watershed runoff especially over frozen ground the pond will fill. Once full and input spring water becomes "normal" you will get a good idea of the amount of seepage through the basin. Then when the water level stabilizes, this gives you a good idea of how well the banks above the water level were-are compacted/sealed. Usually somewhere above the stabilized water level are the leakage areas.

You explain "The berm was built about 12" at a time and then compacted with an excavator and dozer. After all completed we rolled it in with the big loader I have talked about but we really didn't do anything to the side we were removing the dirt from." If your pond fills then recedes to near the current depth you have major leakage/s somewhere in the walls above the water level and the first place I would explore or fix is the side that was not layered and compacted.

IMO 12" thick lifts are too thick to get good soil compaction. A dozer or excavator are poor soil compactors due to the weight of the machine is spread out over a wide area. A dozer operator who built ponds told me that you can cover a chicken egg with 3" of dirt and dive over it with a dozer and not break the egg. Drive over the same egg with a bicycle and you will break the egg all due to weight distribution - wide vs narrow.

If I understand you correctly the final compaction of the soil especially in the dug out area of the basin was performed mainly on the finished pond basin by driving around with the 30ton machine. If this is correct, from my experience I would expect leaks to occur in the banks due to poor deep soil and or thick-wide layer compaction. As Esshup mentioned best liner compaction is done by building up thin 4"-6" thick layers and driving over each layer a several times with a good soil compaction machine. Best overall soil compaction machine is a vibratory sheepsfoot roller, 2nd best is a double barrel sheepsfoot roller, 3rd best is a single barrel sheepsfoot roller. The benefit of the sheepsfoot roller is the layers are knitted together to minimize water from seeping between compacted layers or layered "sheets". In good, proper moisture clay a loaded pan will do a pretty good job of compacting thin layers of clay. Digging out soil and then just surface compacting the finished dug out area results in poor deep, thick, layer compaction that is needed to produce minimal water seepage through a pond basin. When ever a just compacted surface layer dries out due to drought or animal digging the crack/hole provides a pathway for water seepage.


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Rebeck, 3GPM is a nice flow for a spring to drink out of and could start filling your pond. As the water level rises, and surface area expands, the rising water level will appear to stop, and or, evaporation rate can become equal to the inflow rate.

Consider how fast your water level would be rising at 3GPM in a bathtub....and how slow would it rise in a typical swimming pool, and would it rise at all in a football stadium....?



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I still haven't gotten around to actually measure our "3GPM". It was a guess and I think a bad one when I first wrote this. There is way more coming out of my pipe than what would come out of a restricted faucet and I think faucets are rated at 2.5GPM. Should be a very hard test with a stopwatch and 5 gallon bucket. It might actually be a good algebra lesson for my daughter who thinks math is useless!

Thanks all for the input again. The spring comment had me scared. Like I said before, for some reason the fellow helping me dig this and the neighbor with he roller wasn't concerned at all about the area we were digging from but rather the berm for leaks. We didn't compact the soil at all in the dug section. Let me explain our method for the berm building cause I do think we got all the compaction needed but again I am not an expert.

I would dig all day with a medium size excavator double and triple throwing the dirt to an area where my excavator could grab it. He would lay it down, fluffy, about 9-12 inches in front of him and then roll the heck out of it and get about a 4 inch gain from that. He would do that three times and then straighten everything out again with the dozer and we would repeat! Very long and tedious process. He let me dig all day and would only work on the berm part. The back of the berm is dry, bone dry.... so its seeping through the bottom or the dug side which wasn't compacted well.

One thing I forgot to mention is about 90% of this pond is above a layer of clay my kids were making pottery out of. It was grey modeling clay, very nice stuff. The very bottom of the pond did dip below that level into a sandy layer but we could ball the material up in our hands and it held a ball. I think the thought was nothing would leak below that grey clay after everything was saturated. We did need to dig through it though to achieve the final height of the berm. The higher that berm got the more material was needed to gain a little more hieght!!!

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Do a google search for PSI on a regular track and a wide track dozer (LGP tracks), then google search for PSI with a sheepsfoot roller. Let us know what the difference between the PSI is that you found.

The tracks are on the machine so it doesn't sink into soft ground. Like a snowshoe on a human. So, if it floats the machine on soft ground, it won't compact it properly.

Like I said before, either here or in another post. A bathtub holds water very, very well, but pull the plug and it doesn't hold water that well anymore.

Ponds are the same. Miss compacting an area and it's like pulling a plug in a bathtub.


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One whole pond side was dug out and not compacted. There is no way to know what was behind the uncompacted dug out wall.


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Rebuck- i had my first pond built in 2008, it was 3/4 acre. i had not found pond boss at the time. the pond was built in a hollow. the dam was cored and all the dirt used for the dam came from the pond bottom. lots of red clay and some of the blue type you talked about. the guys only used a dozer and a track hoe. it had a small stream feeding it, but i never thought it would fill.finally we got some good rains and it filled and has stayed full ever since. we are in an extreme drought here now and last time i talked to the new owner he said it was only down a few inches. i saw it 4 inches low once!

most builders in this area do not compact the sides or bottom. maybe it's because there is lots of red clay in our area. also most pond in our area are not smooth bowls. builders leave humps, ridges, ditches, stumps, etc for structure, which would make it almost impossible to compact.

i am curious how much difference there is in compacted clay and virgin undisturbed clay. i have seen dirt that was almost impossible to break up with a pick in this area.

now on to pond #2. it is almost 2 acres and was built 2 years ago. it has a small stream feeding it, but is almost completely dry now. i didn't think it would ever fill so i used a trash pump and pumped from a larger stream that runs parallel to my pond dam. it filled and leaked instantly. there was standing water behind the dam. i used a different builder for this pond, he had excavators, dozers, a large rubber tire pan, off road dump trucks and regular dump trucks. we hit rock and not so good dirt along the way. i have treated it with soil floc with very good results. the wet area behind the dam dried up within days. we have had almost no rain in months so it was going down fast. i bit the bullet and installed an electric water pump. i had to run 655 ft of wire. the pump is 1.5 hp with 70 gallon per minute max. i can keep it full with ease now. i have it on a meter with my shop, i use about $4.50 in electricity running 24/7. once i got it full i only use it ever so often to keep it topped off. my dirt is so bad here that it looks damp up around the walking area around the pond due to it wicking its way out.

i don't know if this helps or hurts, but chances are you will be fine. just be patient or start pumping like i did.

sorry for all my rambling.


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Hey, Scott69, thanks for the rambling. made me feel a little better. I ran into the excavator buddy of mine and we talked a little. He says the virgin clay in the bottom of the pond is better packed than any machine we could rent will pack it. I agree except for possibly some of that sandy stuff on the bottom. He suggested broadcasting some bentonite in before we do anything drastic but also said we need a lot of patience! 8 out of 10 ponds in my area are way down and dropping and mine is at least holding its own. Our county just put a burn ban in effect and declared a second tier drought which water consumption is supposed to be limited.

What makes me happy is my springs that feed this pond are still running. What makes me optimistic is if we ever get more than 1/4 inches of rain in a month, it should recharge these springs and get more flow!

My excavator said he used bentonite twice as a spread across the water and see what happens and he said it worked both times. Anyone else had that work???

As always, thanks in advance for your help!

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3 gpm = 4300 gallons per day. There is 27,000 gallons in one acre inch of water. That means it takes about 6 days to move it one inch. When you take into account fresh dry dirt and evaporation I'm surprised it's filling at all. I lost about a 1/4 a day from evaporation during the summer.

It has been unusually dry in your parts this year but don't worry, the rain will come at some point. And when it does I think you will hold fine. My only concern is that you didn't core trench the down side. If you did please disregard. If you didn't, once the pond is full and you get maximum psi at the bottom you need to check the backside for leaks.

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Hey fellows, I did a precise measurement today of my flow rate! We tried 5 gallon buckets but the kids couldn't hold it long enough to time it correctly so we found a 2.5 gallon bucket and it filled consistently at 25 seconds. That is a 6GPM flow which I do not believe is terrible during severe drought conditions.

I am not a pond builder (of course) but I would believe a core trench and key way would be about the same thing. I cut a 2 bucket width trench, about 5 foot deep all the way around the low side of the pond where any dirt needed built up. If your standing on the high side the key or core trench went from about 7 o clock around to 5 o clock. It didn't go all the way around for the same reason we didn't compact the high side hill, my excavator didn't think it was needed.

The shame of all this is, I didn't know this site existed prior to digging and only found it AFTER I started getting scared! I'm still holding at 75" deep. I'm glad I pounded an iron rod in the ground and taped a tape measure to it, that way I have a fairly precise measurement. Also, coming home from church today we noticed three ponds that were lower than I have ever seen them. I don't know what types they are but they are old ones that I never noticed were low before. The one was 4 feet low and the others were around three feet low.

Can anyone comment of the broadcasting of sodium bentonite from my earlier post? Could it hurt? Could it possibly mess up the soil flok if needed?

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i would be patient first of all. 6 gpm is nothing. i think you will be fine. it will fill up this winter. if it goes to dropping much next spring, i'd go with soil floc, it works.


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