5 Surprising Ways to Prolong Your Pond's Retirement
Written by: Gavin Ferris, Ecologist
AS SEEN IN National Community Association Institute’s (CAI) publication, Common Ground
The very first fish I remember catching was a bullhead catfish. It was in a small pond in my grandparents’ HOA community that is still there today. Well, sort of. Though the pond had once been deep enough for fishing and stormwater collection, its depth is now best measured in inches rather than feet. The cattails that were once clustered near the outflow are now abundant throughout the pond. Today, the waterbody resembles the nearby wetland more than it does a pond. In the 55 years of its existence, no measures have ever been taken to mitigate against the natural process of succession.
Lake and pond succession is the natural lifecycle of any waterbody. The very tributaries that supply a waterbody with its water also carry sediment, which over time accumulates and decreases the water depth. Aquatic weeds and nuisance vegetation decompose and create additional organic sediment. And the shallower the pond becomes, the more vegetation it produces—accelerating the aging process.
The speed at which a lake or pond becomes a marsh depends upon several different factors. Some of these factors can be controlled; others can be mitigated. But it is a future that all waterbodies will face at some point in their lifespan. This is why proactive management is not only beneficial, it’s key to preserving the health, function and beauty of our freshwater resources.
A common tool recommended to HOA communities is a beneficial vegetative buffer comprised of native flowering plants and grasses. A vegetative buffer that is allowed to grow 3-5 ft out from the shoreline can help significantly reduce the amount of surface runoff, sediment and pollution entering a lake or pond during rainstorms. Establishing similar erosion controls around streams and tributaries is also a wise precaution against transported sediment. Organic matter accumulation can be further prevented in the waterbody by applying nutrient remediation products, which process excess nutrients before they can be used to fuel algae and aquatic weeds, and introducing supplemental bacteria and enzymes, which aid in the decomposition of vegetation and bottom muck.
Another consideration relating to decreased water depth is the increase in temperatures. Shallower water warms faster, leaving it prone to excess algae growth, increased submersed and emergent vegetation growth, and oxygen depletion. Lake and pond aeration can help mitigate these issues and help slow the accumulation of organic matter. Beneficial dissolved oxygen can be produced by several types of pond aeration systems, which your aquatic management professional may recommend depending on your goals and the characteristics of your waterbody. Floating fountains provide effective circulation in shallow ponds, while submersed aeration systems oxygenate deeper waterbodies from bottom to top. And new aeration alternatives like nanobubble technology can be used supplementally alongside these systems to provide additional natural benefits, including toxic cyanobacteria control and the elimination of pollutants while encouraging the growth of native wildlife and vegetation.
Eventually, the line between a pond and a wetland becomes a little blurry; after all, a wetland without vegetation is, well, just mud. Some forms of vegetation, like cattails and Phragmites, not only thrive in late-successional ponds, but actually speed the rate at which succession occurs, so removing these nuisance plants is especially important. At the same time, it is just as important to establish and promote healthy native wetland plants in order for any form of an aquatic ecosystem to persist. The species best suited for your situation will depend on your location and your ultimate aesthetic and functional goals.
One concern I often hear from community managers, especially those with aging ponds and shallow stormwater retention areas, is the production of mosquitoes. Certainly, shallow productive habitats are more conducive to mosquito breeding than open water ponds. As long as sufficient water remains to sustain them, a population of fish will prevent mosquitoes from proliferating. Amphibian and insect predators like salamanders and dragonflies are also adept at controlling mosquitoes and can be promoted with appropriate native vegetation.
Proactive management strategies can be incredibly impactful in community waterbodies, especially when introduced early on in the lake or pond’s lifespan. Eventually, though, decisions must be made about the future of a waterbody. For stormwater basins and other ponds that must meet design specifications in order to fulfill their intended function, sediment removal or dredging may eventually become a requirement. While dredging can be a tremendously expensive endeavor, a well-designed custom management plan that includes strategic hydro-raking can help prolong the need to dredge by 10 years or more and will allow your community to plan for the expense gracefully. Aging is inevitable, even for your waterbody. It is up to us to decide if and how to intervene in that process.
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Reliable and Quick to Respond“SOLitude Lake Management has been managing our lake/stormwater pond, and fountains since 2005. Kevin Tucker and his team have always been reliable and quick to respond to any issues. They are all very knowledgeable, able to explain what is happening with any situation, and find solutions to problem as they arise. Overall, I have been very pleased with their work and would highly recommend them to anyone with lake, pond, and other BMP management needs.”
Thank You from Camp Holiday TrailsThank you for coordinating the restoration effort for our pond and donating labor for the aerator installation and watermeal treatment. This will ensure that hundreds of kids with special medical needs, and those who have the honor, joy and inspiration of working with them, will benefit from the Camp Holiday Trails experience this year!
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I had two phone calls today from homeowners telling me how beautiful the pond is and that they love the festive lights. Many thanks to SOLitude for always doing such a great job in Crofton Meadows!
SOLitude came in and guided us through the entire process.
We were presented with the challenge of dealing with our stormwater basin, which is regulated by EPA standards that we were not familiar with. SŌLitude came in and guided us through the entire process. Our basin went from an eyesore to a spectacular main selling point for our community. We are in good hands with SŌLitude and cannot thank them enough!
SOLitude has taken a huge burden off of my shoulders and now I don’t even have to worry about the appearance of our pond
We used to struggle with many different issues on holes 15,16,17 at our Country Club. It was not uncommon for us to see algae blooms appear out of nowhere along one of the most important focal points of the course. Since SOLitude Lake Management has been taking care of the pond for us, we have had very little issues with the aesthetic qualities of our pond. SOLitude has taken a huge burden off of my shoulders and now I don’t even have to worry about the appearance of our pond