The Pickens Soil and Water Conservation District and the USDA-NRCS personnel assigned here are frequently contacted to provide technical assistance in selecting a pond site and designing a pond. NRCS retiree, Hollis Berry, explains that landowners were often disappointed with his findings or recommendations due to factors or limitations they had not taken into consideration.
Ponds are usually constructed to meet specific needs such as livestock watering, irrigation, recreation, wildlife habitat or other uses. “Making sure the pond fits their needs should be one of landowners' primary concerns,” says Berry. Landowners often overlook or are not aware of other things that must be considered prior to construction of a pond. Some of the things that must be determined are adequacy of the drainage area, property lines, potential hazard to downstream property, availability of suitable building material (for dam construction), and construction costs. Berry advises that there are other things such as wetlands and cultural resources that must also be checked, but the concerns mentioned above are usually the ones that restrict or eliminate ponds in this area.
Every pond site requires a thorough investigation since the characteristics of the site and the watershed (drainage area) determine design and construction requirements that meet NRCS standards and specifications. The ideal pond site is an exception. Seldom is a site checked that does not have one or more problems or restrictions that must be taken into consideration.
It is important that the watershed and pond size be balanced. A large drainage area requires a pond big enough to manage not only the normal flows but must also have sufficient storage capacity to handle flows from heavy rainfall to protect the dam from failure. Designing a safe structure on a small pond with a large drainage area is usually impossible or cost prohibitive. Ponds do need an adequate supply of fresh water to be successful. Small streams or springs with year round flows provide the best source of water. Ponds dependent on surface runoff often fluctuate during dry times causing management problems for the owner.
Property lines are another important consideration. It is often necessary to restrict the size of a pond or recommend that it not be constructed due to limited space. Landowners should remember it is illegal to impound water on others or to direct storm water from emergency spillways to another person's property without permission from the owner (an easement). Downstream property must also be checked to ensure that if the dam was to fail there would be no loss of life or damage to homes, roads, utilities, etc.
Soils are a key element in pond construction. The soils in the reservoir must have ability to hold water. Suitable soils for a cutoff trench, foundations and the embankment must be available at or near the pond site to construct a safe dam and reduce costs. The availability of good soils is one of the things that will determine construction costs. In addition to soil moving costs, pipe size, land clearing costs, seeding, mulching and landscaping must be considered. Those interested in fishing will also have stocking fees to consider.
Ponds can be very expensive to construct properly. Landowners should be prepared to pay around $10,000 or more for an average 1 (one) acre pond. Because of the many factors that must be considered in selecting a pond site and constructing a safe and reliable dam, the PSWCD recommends that you obtain the advice and assistance of someone knowledgeable in pond construction before attempting any type of pond. Permitting conditions regarding the construction of ponds can change. Check with NRCS or the Pickens Conservation District before you build.