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I was planning another wetland this year that will be postponed to next year. That's OK. Life is good.

gehajake #562021 10/18/23 10:47 PM
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Jumping in here just a year late, but I wanted to share this if it helps others looking for the source of their leak, and at their wits end like we have been. I empathize with you. We were successful in finding our leak source after a lot of trial and error and almost a year of frustration. Many thanks to TJ for his expertise and advice in our process. We found a large hole in the very bottom of the pond. You can see for yourself what it looks like in the video. We are considering our options on the best way to try and fill this hole 18’ under water. The pond is currently about 4’ low. Open to suggestions if anyone has experience with this. We are waging war on this leak and considering all options short of draining the pond at this point.

WE FOUND THE POND LEAK! - How to Find a Water Leak in a Large Earthen Pond Using Tracer Dye

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So cool to find the obvious leak! I would be tempted to use a PVC pipe to direct appropriate cement mixture directly into the hole. Follow TJs advice though.

If cement, use the material that contains glass fibers. Mixed just a little thin so it flows into the initial water path, and not using coarse aggregate. At least at first if it just keeps getting sucked in, then I’m not sure.
I am not a mason, so I don’t know all of the products available. If these is such a thing as cement that swells when it cures, that would likely help, combined with fibers.

I suppose bentonite may work directed into the hole, but I have heard very few success stories.

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Originally Posted by liquidsquid
I suppose bentonite may work directed into the hole, but I have heard very few success stories.

Bentonite is a rock type composed of a group of swelling clays, and a widely available industrial product of the same name. As a dry clay powder, it will swell substantially when saturated with water. I think it can only work where it can be emplaced in a less than fully-hydrated state and then allowed to expand further as it takes up its maximum water content.

I do NOT believe it would work on any macro leaks. If you cemented off the big hole, and then used some bentonite to fill the gaps in the tiny spaces where the concrete did not bond to the pond bottom substrate or where the cement contracted and left tiny gaps, then it might work in that scenario.

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One time when searching I seen a product that was small pieces of limestone coated with bentonite. They claimed the limestone helped it sink fast and pack to seal leaks. Maybe using a pvc pipe to put layers of something like this and soilfloc would work.
What was TJs advice?

Last edited by Bobbss; 10/28/23 08:23 PM.

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Thanks for the suggestions guys. We were curious to know if polymer alone would slow it. We’ve kind of been using this opportunity to test the effectiveness of the polymer on a hole this size. It has to choke down to narrower spots with twists and turns. TJ suggested getting some larger aggregate in the hole. Gravel, kittly litter and some polymer to have something for it to bind to. So far I have tried dumping gravel, paver base, kitty litter, clay, sand and seekleak polymer. We had a small weather window last week before rain and cold, so I dumped about 8 buckets of that combination of material. I have not done the pvc pipe to directly shoot the material down the hole. So I know not all of that material hit the mark dumping it from the waters surface. That was 4 days ago….and I’ve been out of town to take additional measurements to know the effectiveness yet. I’m eager to check it out. I’ll have a better report after the polymer has had more time to expand. But we’re working on the logistics of positioning a 20’ pvc pipe over the hole and stabilizing it to shoot more material in the hole. Before we do that, I’ll get my camera back down there to see what it looks like. I will look into the cement options, and be sure to report back.

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I've seen where the fibers come separate, and you mix them into the concrete yourself.
I would be curious to know how you would direct the pipe down there. Maybe an anchor or two with a rope, and an eye loop on the pipe to guide it? If the pipe is lighter than water, it will be hard to keep it where it needs to be with a 20ft length.
It seems easy until you start thinking about the difficulties of aligning the pipe to the hole and keeping it there while you are working. Maybe craft something that has a rod/steak on the end that you pound into the bottom to have it stay put while you work, with a 45 degree fitting to angle material where you need it.
Another option would be a bucket with a trap-door bottom that you can open with a second rope to dump the contents once it is guided over the hole. It would need to be a lot heavier than water to work.

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Well, here’s what I ended up doing…I could try and write it out, but this video shows it better. Check out the underwater footage. And now being 9 days post application, our leak has been reduced to ~.25” daily. Huge improvement over 4” loss daily earlier in July. We’ve hit this one spot with multiple applications of clay, polymer and granular bentonite hoping to narrow that channel. This last application scraping the partially set up polymer jelly into the hole has reduced the leak significantly. Here’s to hoping it maintains this way.


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I've enjoyed your videos. Great camera and detective work!

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Great job on playing "whack a mole" with your pond leak!

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Nice, what camera are you using?


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Been following this. I have a leak in the dam about 5 ft below the top. More like a seep. But, this time, due to our not unusual drought, the leaky area should be exposed. This thread makes me want to look at it and try a fix.

NNAFish, how did you mix the compound. In other words, recipe please.


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NNAFish, another question. I was listening to your video on shallow water spawning habitat and you said you placed your best spawning gravel bed on the north/northeast side of the pond as you said this was the side of the pond that would warm up the fastest in the spring.

I am confused as my pond is also considered a 'northern' pond and I assume our longitude is about the same depending how far north or south you are in Iowa. In my pond the perch eggs go in the South or Southeast corner of the pond first every year and I would assume that would mean the south or SE warms up most quickly.

How could it be the opposite in your pond?

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Bobbss, the camera is an aqua vu HD7i. I couldn’t have done this without a camera. It’s been fascinating. And the walleye and perch and smallies that we’re growing in the pond are all over the bottom of the pond….which is also fun to see them grow.

Dave, I think the recipe thus far has been the seekleak polymer continuing to build and compound within the leak with each application. The combination of the various other materials (clay, sand, gravel, kitty litter, bentonite) were primarily to get anything to lodge in the hole to slow the water long enough to have polymer bond to long enough to set up and begin expanding.

The polymer continues to expand for 3 weeks after application.

In your case with a seep/leak in the dam that’s exposed, I don’t think the polymer would work as well until the water level comes up. The polymer is best when there is water running through a leak so that the fine polymer particles get sucked into the leak in the dam where the water is escaping so it starts to expand and plug the leak internally in the dam.

We treated the entire pond basin in August with 4 units of Seekleak polymer. Our leak went from 4” daily to 2.25” after that application. About a month later is when I found the sink hole leak. We then focused only on that spot for the past two months. We’ve applied polymer and the clay/kitty litter combo in just that area like you saw in the video. I wait a couple weeks in between applications to allow the polymer to expand. Test the water flow with the camera and dye tablets to see if I can see where it’s going. Then I put more polymer down over top. I think it’s working like plaque building up in an artery and clogging the channel shut by compounding on top of the previous layer of polymer/clay layer.

I’ve been monitoring daily water levels, and over the past three months of treating we’ve gone from 4” to 2.25” to 1.25” to .75” to .25” daily loss currently. That trend has been super exciting. I don’t want to speak too soon, but we’ve seen incredible results. It’s been time consuming and a lot of effort. But we’re kind of an extreme case I think with the leak 20’+ feet down in the pond. Accessing it is a challenge. So if it could work on a leak like ours, I’m fairly confident it could help you.

For a polymer application, a seep type leak is perfect for what that product could do…but you’d want to wait until the water is up and there is water actively running through the dam to pull it into the dam so it could expand within the leak and stop the flow.

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Hey canyoncreek….when building our pea gravel beds, I was making the assumption that pond temps would follow the similar pattern as larger lakes. I do believe that water temps generally do warm faster on the north side of large water bodies, but I’m not sure whether the volume of water in a 1 acre pond is enough to make as big of a difference. I’m only one season in on our pond to have actual data. Most of my strategy when placing structure was on my assumptions from other experience.

What I actually witnessed in our first spring in the pond was that the perch spawned on the west side of the pond on the dam where we had sunken brush. They used the wood structure to hang ribbons on in about 5 ft of water. It’s my guess that the perch are prioritizing the best structure for them and then waiting for the water temp to be ideal in that spot. I didn’t expect the perch to use the gravel beds for spawning. The bluegill however did use the gravel beds on both the north and south.

My only explanation is that I bet each pond environment is a little different. What do the perch use to hang ribbons on in your pond in the south end?

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It may be different for different species. For me it has always been kind of counter-culture with my perch. They seem to go to the S or SE corner of the pond, but the west side of my pond is shaded by dense trees so sun has a harder time hitting the SW side later in the day in the winter and early spring.

The YP also don't seem to prefer using sticks or branches. There are SOME ribbons on branches but it seems just as likely that they drape it around a rock, or drape it through the uprights of some dead sedges/reeds. They also have preferred to use the cavity and the opening of a dome style minnow trap to catch the ribbon and help extract it. Simply by counting the locations the average is that they will lay them on a bed of oak leaves with no structure at all more than any other option.

The other odd thing is that traditional wisdom is that they will use branches in about 2 feet of water and you said you see yours in about 5 ft of water. My egg strands are always in 1 foot of water and sometimes even close enough to shore to be in 8" of water. I do see a random strand in 2 feet of water but that is the exception. I wouldn't know about strands in 5 ft of water as my clarity in the spring is about 24-30" only.

I have (hopefully) no bluegill and a few pumpkinseeds but have not seen a panfish nest in the past 3 summers.

It would be tremendous if you could produce conditions for walleye spawning in your pond. I imagine you have a plan for adding water if needed to keep the spawning flats at the correct temp and depth during the spring spawn? And I guess you need to create some current of water too?

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Thanks for sharing your perch structure findings. That’s interesting the diversity in which they’re laying their ribbons.

I captured a video of the ribbons in the brush. The depth of water was about 5-6’….but the ribbons themselves were only 2’ under the water surface hanging on the brush/twigs. I won’t keep linking videos, but you can find that video if you are curious.

As for the walleye spawning conditions. Yes and yes. We have a plan…we supplement with well water as needed. We’ve needed a lot recently with the leak. But with that trending positive recently, we’re currently about 18” low and rising. Walleye need current and moving water….so we’ve had a massive waterfall built by aquascapes to create that consistent moving water environment that we can control in the spring. Because of our leak and water level, we haven’t been able to turn it on yet, but we’re hopeful that in the next two weeks we’ll be able to fire it up!

I will manipulate rocks and boulders in the shallow flat where the waterfall will pour into the pond to get the right water flow. It’s a work in progress, but that’s our plan, and it’s starting to take shape. You can see the current state of the waterfall on the channel. I’ll update more at each phase of the project.

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Originally Posted by NNAFish
Dave, I think the recipe thus far has been the seekleak polymer continuing to build and compound within the leak with each application. The combination of the various other materials (clay, sand, gravel, kitty litter, bentonite) were primarily to get anything to lodge in the hole to slow the water long enough to have polymer bond to long enough to set up and begin expanding.

Did you ever pump down any nylon netting? (There are hundreds of different sizes and strengths of grid type products for other uses.)

I would think some netting lying flat against the flow, OR balled up in a restriction, might provide some substrate for your other materials to get bound up into the leak.

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I never did…the timing and logistics didn’t line up, and I wanted to get the polymer working. I was going to try cheese cloth, but didn’t end up putting it in the hole prior to the substrate and polymer. If the hole opens up again, I’ll certainly do that.

Maybe I could even still get some mesh fabric down over the area to sandwich in between additional polymer clay layers for added stability.

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Hmm, tough situation. Maybe get a pond specialist to check it out? They might have some insights.

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Thanks NNAFISH! I never thought of using a camera to help look for leaks. While I don't lose near as much water per day as you were when you started, and probably don't have a hole that big to spot, I wonder if a camera could help me find where my water is going. It would be nice to know what area to treat.

Can you tell me what dye you're using?

Is your pond very clear? It looks like it is. I would hate to spend that kind of money on a camera, and my pond not be clear enough to see anything.


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Bobbss…FWT Bright Dyes was the dye I used to first locate the leak with sinking the balloons and popping them on the bottom. https://utility-technologies.myshop...IvPV9_5u5wOZYaWBtgoUA5Ly57qie3CdWB_ifR18

You’re right, if the leak is a lot of little seeps, it may be hard to tell. But, if you can even eliminate one half of the pond by following the dye to a general area, it greatly reduces the cost of polymer treatment. Depending on how deep your pond is. Even applying due to the surface on a windless day, you might be able to track it. If your pond is less than 10’ deep, I would try the surface application of the dye first. It’s cheap, and it might be all you need to identify the general area the water is moving toward.

Our pond is clear, which is certainly an advantage. I can see at least 4-5’ down. Maybe more. I haven’t done a secchi disk.

There are cheaper camera options for sure. But I totally understand.

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NNAFish,

I did NOT like the action of the dye in your last video. It appeared to have very strong positive buoyancy. How is that going to help find a leak on the bottom?

Did your dye come as a liquid, or was it a powder that you mixed into water?

I wonder if future users could use temperature to control the buoyancy of the dye? For example, refrigerate the balloons for negative buoyancy to find a bottom leak, warm the balloon in a warm-water bath to find a leak that you suspect is high in the pond bank or dam?

Thanks for all of your great info in this post!

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FishinRod

The FWT (red) Bright Dyes is a liquid.
The Korky plumbers dye tablets (blue) are a compressed powder tablet. You can get these at Home Depot.

The blue dye is just a small tablet I threw down locally. That sinks right to the bottom for convenience.

I hadn’t thought about the buoyancy of the dye relative to the water temp, that is an interesting idea.

One could chill the liquid dye to help it to sink initially. I’m not sure how long that would maintain that temp before acclimating to the pond water temp that is surrounding it at that water level. Would be worth a try with balloons.

Happy to share our experiments and findings if they can be helpful in any way. We’re experimenting as we go. After fighting this leak for the past year, to see the significant progress here recently has been exciting. I know if you have a pond leak, you can relate to the frustration…and elation when you come across something that works. I know this won’t be a cure all for every situation….but maybe a tool to add to the tool box that may be worth a try.

I don’t know what kind of daily leak volume threshold a pond would have to be at for the dye to be helpful. We were losing 80,000-100,000 gallons per day at its worst. Would a 25,000 gallon a day leak produce enough suction to pull the dye? I’m not sure yet.

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I'm curious about 'SeekLeak' You mentioned TJ helped you and in the past his go to product was 'SoilFloc' Maybe TJ can jump in and reply but I was curious if SeekLeak is the same as Soilfloc and if not, if TJ likes Seekleak better and what the differences are.

Also can you tell us how you arranged for the balloon of red dye to pop itself once it hit the bottom of your pond?

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