Guide to Building A Pond – 5 Items To Consider

Sept 17, 2013 – Here are the most important items that you need to consider when you are building a pond. If you follow this guide and advise you can’t go wrong. Good luck in building a safe and healthy multi use farm or residential pond.

Understanding the Types and Uses of Ponds

There are well over a million ponds in North America ranging from utility farm ponds to decorative residential ponds. These ponds range in size from less than a acre to over 25 acres.

Due to the increase in pond building construction, safety concerns have surfaced. Many states have now regulated the construction of private ponds and permits are required to ensure the safe construction of farm and residential ponds. Government officials are routinely checking ponds and condemning ones that do not fit certain safety standards and forcing the owners to drain the unsafe ponds.

Ponds are constructed to serve various purposes:

Farm Ponds – livestock watering, irrigation, and fire protection, flood and erosion control

Fish and Wildlife Production Ponds – production of fish and other wildlife species

Residential Ponds – decorative, recreational fishing, swimming, boating

Two Types of Ponds

There are two basic types of ponds:

Embankment Ponds – these types of ponds are constructed by developing a dam across a stream or creek. The problem with these type of ponds is that they can easily wash out as the stream rises at certain times of the year or if there is a heavy rainfall.

Excavation Ponds – these ponds are built by digging into the ground and creating a pond or by digging up the surrounding area to and forming levees. These are the safest types of and are easily constructed especially in flatter geographies.

Check to See if you need a POND PERMIT in your Region for Fish or Water Storage

In certain regions and for certain uses a Pond Permit is required for private ponds. These permits are required before you build your pond and are similar in nature to a building permit for a house. This ensures the safety of people and wildlife.

What is a Private Pond?

A pond is defined as private only if it is entirely surrounded by private land and is not located on a natural stream channel. Stocking or maintaining fish in such a pond requires a Private Pond Permit. Any lake, pond, or reservoir with legal access to the public is considered a public water body.

Why are Private Ponds Regulated?

Private ponds have been popular on farms across rural America for decades. They can provide fishing enjoyment for kids and an opportunity for pond owners to create and manage their own personal fisheries. However, if not regulated, private fish ponds have the potential to seriously harm wild fish populations in adjacent rivers, streams, and lakes. Unwanted non-native fish species and diseases can be easily introduced to drainages through private ponds. For this reason, state authorities are working with landowners to insure private pond stocking won’t harm public fisheries.

In addition, a valid Private Pond Permit grants the landowner the right to apply their own fishing regulations to their private fish pond. State fishing licenses are not required to fish permitted private ponds.

What are the Requirements?

Any landowner can have a private fish pond if they meet three basic requirements:

1) A landowner must obtain a Private Fish Pond Permit.
Private Fish Pond Permits ensure that the pond owner has met the necessary requirements for fish stocking. In addition, the permits allow the state to monitor and prevent introductions of fish that could harm wild populations. These permits are usually free and must be renewed every five years. The first step in acquiring a Private Fish Pond Permit is to complete an Application for a Private Pond.
Applications can be obtained from your state government. Before the permit is issued, pond owners must specify the pond use and the type of fish they would like to stock.

2) The outlet and inlet (if applicable) to the pond must be screened.
Before a permit can be issued, landowners must screen the outlet of their pond to insure that fish cannot escape into public waters from the pond. The inlet may also require screening to keep wild fish from entering the pond. Depending on the location of the pond and the risk of escapement, a Conservation Officer may inspect the pond and insure the screening is sufficient. Most landowners use galvanized mesh screens in the spillway.

The size of the mesh depends on the size and species of fish they intend to stock. For Example, Ponds stocked with fish that will reproduce in the pond, such as bass or bluegill, require a smaller mesh than ponds that will be stocked only with large trout.

3) Only approved species of fish from approved hatcheries may be stocked.
Even the best screens may fail. For this reason state governments only allow stocking of desirable species that are currently found in adjacent waters. This ensures that new species aren’t introduced into publicly owned waters, threatening native fish populations and public fishing opportunity. To prevent the introduction and spread of disease, such as whirling disease, only fish from an approved, disease free hatchery may be stocked.

Other Requirements

This information only addresses the necessary requirements to maintain fish in a private pond. Depending on the water source and size of the pond, a water storage permit may be required.

For additional information or for private pond permit or live fish transport applications, contact the Regional Fishery Manager at your nearest state or provincial office department of fisheries and water.

Selecting the Pond Site

Selection of the pond site is one of the most important steps in construction.

An ideal pond site has the following key characteristics;

Level ground to allow for economical construction (the maximum height of a dam should be no more than 25 feet and no less than 6 feet year round. Dams higher than this are expensive to build and lower than this will not be able to compensate for continuous evaporation and seepage.

Soil which consists of sufficient levels of clay to hold the water (Clay soils are best for lining ponds because they minimize leakage. Sites containing gravel or sandy soils are unsuitable, often requiring costly earth moving. Limestone or shale areas are unsuitable because of possible fractures which create leaks. Swampy areas are poor sites because they are difficult to drain and costly to maintain).
An adequate water supply (The least costly way to construct a pond is to find the area that can provide the largest volume of water with the least amount of landfill)

Accessibility (build the pond in an area that is easy for the excavation equipment to access which helps in lowering the costs of construction)

Safety and Liability (make sure that your pond is situated in an area where there would be minimal human impact if something goes wrong. For Example, what would happen if the dam failed causing loss of life or injury? The pond owner is normally held liable for downstream flooding and related damages caused by dam failure.)

Pond Construction Considerations

Pond Water Supply: For the water supply aspect of you pond. Ideally you want a relatively constant water level throughout the year, which will mean that you will need to draw water from a source on a constant basis. At the same time you do not want to have large overflows from the pond. Large overflows can cause you to lose essential nutrients that feed your pond and you will lose many of your fish.

Streams: For ponds that are fed by streams be sure to build your pond adjacent to the stream instead of damming it. Construct an inlet pipe that can be redirected or turned off to avoid overflow situations and it will give you some control over the inflow of excess silt and unwanted fish and wildlife.

Surface Run Off: is the most common water source for farm ponds. These are derived from waters which seep across the surface of the ground after rainfalls. Depending on your climate and average rainfall a quick calculation for the amount of land required to satisfy the water requirements of a pond are as follows. In majority of areas in North America – pond owners need about 4 acres of land for each acre-foot of pond (a surface acre foot of water one foot deep), In situations where rainfall is variable and soil is sandy you’re best to source the services of an experts who specialize in the area of predicting water supplies.

Underground Springs or Wells: This type of water source is the best type of pond water. Its usually the cleanest water and the best quality to support aquatic life. In some cases well water may contain excessive levels of carbon dioxide or nitrogen and in these cases you would need to aerate the water before its suitable. In other cases its been found that ground water can contain excess minerals which may be harmful to fish and other aquatic life. In this case aeration also can be a suitable solutions to ensure its safety for your pond wildlife. Make sure whichever water source you choose that it is analyzed before pond construction to ensure that it’s a safe water source.

Pond Construction Costs

Listed below are the costs that a pond owner should consider before constructing a pond:

  • For a Dam, estimate the amount of fill and the cost for moving the dirt
  • Cost of drain pipe installation
  • Cost of the spillway construction
  • Cost of clearing the pond area
  • Cost of clearing all trees and brush in the vicinity
  • Cost of a drainage system
  • Cost of the fill that must be composed of high quality clay soil (you are talking a lot of fill – a dam pond requires a 2:1 slope on the pond side and 3:1 slope on the downward side of the dam. The top of the dam should be 12 feet in width to allow vehicle traffic and prevent muskrats from burrowing through the dam)
  • Costs of spillway construction (to guard against flooding and dam failure)
  • Cost of maintaining a healthy pond ecosystem once its built and filled with water

Other Pond Construction Considerations

1. The pond embankment or dam should be grassed immediately after construction to prevent erosion. Grass that is suitable for your local area should be planted. A quality grass, will quickly cover the soil and will prevent erosion and weed growth.

2. A rule of thumb for the pond bank is that it should have a 2:1 slope to prevent excessive growth of rooted aquatic weeds. Irregular shaped ponds (non-circular) increase angler access. All pond edges should have a suitable species of grass planted.

3. The pond side face of the dam can be protected from wind and wave action by dumping rocks on the face of the dam which should extend several feet below the low anticipated water level.

4. For farm ponds place a fence around your pond to avoid livestock from entering. Gravity-flow watering trough can be installed below the dam for livestock watering. Other livestock watering methods that are pervasively used are air and electrical water pumps. A highly recommended manufacturer of these products is Koenders Windmills and these products are ideal for this application.

5. Pond inlets should be constructed so that inflows can be controlled and filtered. The filter prevents unwanted fish species from entering the pond and a good outlet design prevents fish loss.

6. In drainage areas that contain silt or heavy loads of toxic chemicals, the surface runoff waters should be diverted via a ditch around the pond. Diversion ditches prevent excess pollutants, nutrients, silt from entering the pond.

7. Take care of your pond and make sure to inspect and repair it from time to time. Fill gullies, replant grass, and replace rocks as needed. Trim grassy pond edges to prevent growth and promote easy access.

8. Consult a pond specialist to seek professional advice when planning and constructing your pond and review this article with them.

9. Post Pond Construction Maintenance and Care
Once your pond is built and water is flowing into the pond along with wildlife inhabiting it you need to consider the maintenance of it. The most important factor in keeping a healthy pond is to supply it with adequate levels of oxygen. Without adequate levels of oxygen water will stagnate and your pond will become a unhealthy water source for all that use it. One of the most effective solutions in the market place that is environmentally friendly and cost effective is the use of windmills to provide oxygen to water. The leading manufacturer of windmill aeration systems in the world is Koenders Windmills Inc. Koenders have pioneered this product and there is another company called Superior Windmill that also provides this solution to pond owners. For more information on pond aeration visit the manufacturers of these products at and

Sure there are other activities and items that you may want to consider for maintaining a healthy pond but aeration is the most proactive way to keep your pond healthy and clean. Aeration helps you cut down and even avoid the use of chemicals.