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Joined: Jan 2022
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ChrisOh Offline OP
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I'm in the planning stages for a new earthen pond on a couple acre property I've recently acquired. The property has a gentle slope, and in one corner has I space I feel may be ideal for a small pond. I'd hoped to make the pond .08 acres (surface area) with a max depth of 10'. Volume at this size is .33 acre-ft.

According to the USDA's 'Ponds, Planning, Design, and Construction' my area would ideally have 12acres of runoff area for each acre-ft of pond. My watershed feeding this pond is only about 2 acres - according to what I've read at least 4 acres would be ideal.

My questions are:
1) In your opinion, would it be better to go with a smaller pond that will hopefully stay more full, or a larger pond that might fill up in the spring but evaporate quite a bit over the summer?
2) Do you know of any other factors that might positively influence this issue I'm seeing regarding less than ideal drainage area feeding the area? I have clay soil which should hold water nicely.
3) Any other thoughts you'd care to share?

I'm attaching a screenshot of my topographic property map with drainage lines specified.
My soil profile (unconfirmed at this point.. will test in the spring) is below."

My goal is to have a pond to provide water access and for recreation. This is an off-grid operation.

Thanks and I'm excited to have joined this group! -Chris



[quote]
Itasca County, Minnesota
626B—Suomi silt loam, 1 to 8 percent slopes
Map Unit Setting
National map unit symbol: fcmg
Elevation: 980 to 1,310 feet
Mean annual precipitation: 20 to 27 inches
Mean annual air temperature: 37 to 41 degrees F
Frost-free period: 95 to 105 days
Farmland classification: All areas are prime farmland
Map Unit Composition
Suomi and similar soils: 90 percent
Minor components: 10 percent
Estimates are based on observations, descriptions, and transects of the mapunit.
Description of Suomi
Setting
Landform: Lake plains
Landform position (two-dimensional): Summit, backslope
Down-slope shape: Linear
Across-slope shape: Linear
Parent material: Silty and clayey till
Typical profile
A - 0 to 3 inches: silt loam
E,E/B,Bt - 3 to 36 inches: clay
C - 36 to 60 inches: clay
Properties and qualities
Slope: 1 to 8 percent
Depth to restrictive feature: More than 80 inches
Drainage class: Moderately well drained
Capacity of the most limiting layer to transmit water (Ksat): Very low to moderately low (0.00 to 0.14 in/hr)
Depth to water table: About 30 inches
Frequency of flooding: None
Frequency of ponding: None
Calcium carbonate, maximum content: 35 percent
Available water supply, 0 to 60 inches: Moderate (about 9.0 inches)
Interpretive groups
Land capability classification (irrigated): None specified
Land capability classification (nonirrigated): 2e
Hydrologic Soil Group: D
Ecological site: F057XY020MN - Fine Upland Mesic Hardwood Forest
Forage suitability group: Sloping Upland, Acid (G088XN006MN)
Other vegetative classification: Sloping Upland, Acid (G088XN006MN)
Hydric soil rating: No
[/quote

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pond.PNG (635.02 KB, 57 downloads)
drainage requirements.png (396.15 KB, 46 downloads)
Last edited by ChrisOh; 01/23/22 09:38 PM.
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RAH Offline
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A lot depends on how well your soil seals in the pond bottom and any incoming subsurface water. My 3rd pond is about 0.4 acres and has very little direct watershed input, but based on living on my land for 25+ years and experience while the 1st 2 ponds were being built, I tried digging it anyway. I needed a bottom drain to complete the pond due to the subsurface input from springs. I cored the other 3 sides and lined it all with clay from the spoils to block a very thin sand lens and it hold water like a drum. During the driest times, it has not even dropped 2 feet max. If I did my calculations correctly, your pond is planned to be about 60' by 60', With a maximum depth of 10', it appears it will have a pretty steep slope, so consider safety in your plans. IMO, it is better to have a small well-sealed pond than a larger leaky pond. My 4th pond was built similar to my 3rd pond but is still filling and is about 2' from full pool. I have yet to see it go through a summer, so time will tell if I successfully blocked the sand veins. Best of luck!

Last edited by RAH; 01/24/22 07:21 AM.
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Chris,

IMO you will enjoy a smaller pond with the correct amount of water compared to a larger pond that is just a shallow mud hole for part of the year. The biggest exception would be if you have some source of supplemental water to top off your pond during dry spells.

It might help a little to "add" some more drainage area for your pond. Since you will have earthmoving equipment on site, you could build a small terrace to capture more of the surface water flows on your property.

(Discussion based on assumption that your pond.PNG is oriented due north.) The runoff from the NE corner of your property is going to go downhill the the west and then turn north and flow off your property past your pond. If you built a terrace along the 1451.5' contour with a berm at your north property line that went up the slope, then that extra water could be routed to your pond.

You might not need to dig the small "bay" at the SE corner of your pond. (Unless you want that bay for some other reason than capturing the surface runoff.)

Your terrace does not need to be at any specific contour, so you can fit it at any location that is pleasing to your eye. Right at the edge of your trees might look nice, but be careful not to route leaf debris into your small pond.

Finally, I think that the USDA handbook is an excellent resource. I believe their calculations for pond size versus watershed are based on average levels of water loss due to seepage AND evaporation. Your Soil Survey results indicate you probably have good clay. If your pond is built and sealed correctly, then you might have less than average water losses due to seepage. That might allow you to "cheat" to a slightly larger than calculated pond size, but I would not cheat too much.

If you spend less money on a smaller pond, that always stays full, then you might be able to do a small expansion later. If you build too big to start, then you have spent more money for a worse pond.

Good luck on your project!

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ChrisOh Offline OP
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Originally Posted by RAH
A lot depends on how well your soil seals in the pond bottom and any incoming subsurface water. ... If I did my calculations correctly, your pond is planned to be about 60' by 60', With a maximum depth of 10', it appears it will have a pretty steep slope, so consider safety in your plans. ... IMO, it is better to have a small well-sealed pond than a larger leaky pond.
>

Thanks RAH! I'll have to dig a test hole of course but I don't expect any incoming water. My soil survey indicates depth to water table being something like 3' down but in talking to the neighbors, it's 80' of clay before you get to anything usable for livestock watering, etc. I'll be honest, I'd thought running into a water table could be an asset and reduce the depth I need to fill via runoff but in reading some other threads it seems those thoughts were misconceived. In any case it would be a very slow fill and even if ground water could seep in or out, it would be very slow.

Your comment about safety is interesting. I your calculations were correct and I was aiming for a 1' drop for every 3'.. which seemed to be an average in my reading. Perhaps it steeper in actuality than it seems on paper. What slope would you recommend as I'm this concept out? (looking at my sketch again, I believe I'd started the first 9' from the full line as 1:3 and then shifted to 1:2 in order to get a bit more square footage at the deepest point. I can see how this could be an issue if the pond is low, especially.)

Last edited by ChrisOh; 01/25/22 09:14 AM.
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Quote
Chris,

IMO you will enjoy a smaller pond with the correct amount of water compared to a larger pond that is just a shallow mud hole for part of the year. The biggest exception would be if you have some source of supplemental water to top off your pond during dry spells.

It might help a little to "add" some more drainage area for your pond. Since you will have earthmoving equipment on site, you could build a small terrace to capture more of the surface water flows on your property.

(Discussion based on assumption that your pond.PNG is oriented due north.) The runoff from the NE corner of your property is going to go downhill the the west and then turn north and flow off your property past your pond. If you built a terrace along the 1451.5' contour with a berm at your north property line that went up the slope, then that extra water could be routed to your pond.

You might not need to dig the small "bay" at the SE corner of your pond. (Unless you want that bay for some other reason than capturing the surface runoff.)

Your terrace does not need to be at any specific contour, so you can fit it at any location that is pleasing to your eye. Right at the edge of your trees might look nice, but be careful not to route leaf debris into your small pond.

Finally, I think that the USDA handbook is an excellent resource. I believe their calculations for pond size versus watershed are based on average levels of water loss due to seepage AND evaporation. Your Soil Survey results indicate you probably have good clay. If your pond is built and sealed correctly, then you might have less than average water losses due to seepage. That might allow you to "cheat" to a slightly larger than calculated pond size, but I would not cheat too much.

If you spend less money on a smaller pond, that always stays full, then you might be able to do a small expansion later. If you build too big to start, then you have spent more money for a worse pond.

Good luck on your project!

Thanks FishinRod!
I'm attaching another image with my soil placement plan. The SW edge of the property was draining to the south so the plan was to fill that in a bit to redirect the flow somewhat. There is also an old foundation that needs to be filled back there so that works out well. I've added a few other blue lines somewhat along the north property line to form a berm that should help direct flow to where I want it. This was a good thought I hadn't considered - and yes, that was the point of the 'bay. '

I agree that a full pond beats a muddy hole, and will condense my plans slightly. I hadn't considered expanding the pond later but that is a good thought. As it stands I've got someone on the line to do some dirt work for a 'trade' for my services elsewhere (I am a neon sign maker... can sometimes be a pretty intriguing swap.)

I'll re-calculate based on some additional watershed created by the berms, and figure 10acres/ acre-ft of pond and see what I can come up with.

I appreciate your site specific response. I can't quite visualize the terrace concept but I think adjusting the berms will get me moving in the right direction.

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Your berms in blue along the "north" edge will work just fine to capture all of the surface water that moves across your property. They can probably be fairly low and still serve their purpose. (Maybe a little higher as the berm approaches the pond.)

The berms would also be a good place to spoil the material excavated from your pond. Make sure your contractor stockpiles your topsoil, uses the clay from the lowest portions of the pond to construct the berms, and then finishes the berms with your good topsoil.

Using less than 1:3 slopes for pond safety seems strange when you contemplate walking on dry land. However, it can be quite difficult to walk up a slippery slope in a pond, especially for small children or the elderly.

If you will have either (or livestock) around your pond, then I would have one small portion of the pond have a slope of 1:4 or lower as RAH suggests for safety. The rest at 1:3 should help you minimize shallow plants (unless that is what you want).

1 member likes this: ChrisOh

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