The demand for water has increased tremendously in recent years, and ponds are one of the most reliable and economical sources of water. Ponds are now serving a variety of purposes, including water for livestock and for irrigation, fish production, field and orchard spraying, fire protection, energy conservation, wildlife habitat, recreation, erosion control, and landscape improvement.
Clean water and ample forage are equally essential for livestock to be finished out in a marketable condition. If stockwater provisions in pasture and range areas are inadequate, grazing will be concentrated near the water and other areas will be undergrazed. This can contribute to serious livestock losses and instability in the livestock industry.
Fig. 02. This pond supplies water to a stockwater trough used by cattle in nearby grazing area.
Watering places must also be properly distributed in relation to the available forage. Areas of abundant forage may be underused if water is not accessible to livestock grazing on any part of that area (fig. 2).
Providing enough watering places in pastures encourages more uniform grazing, facilitates pasture improvement practices, retards erosion, and enables farmers to make profitable use of soil-conserving crops and erodible, steep areas unfit for cultivation.
An understanding of stockwater requirements helps in planning a pond large enough to meet the needs of the stock using the surrounding grazing area. The average daily consumption of water by different kinds of livestock shown here is a guide for estimating water needs.
The amount of water consumed at one pond depends on the average daily consumption per animal, number of livestock served, and period over which they are served.
Farm ponds are now an important source of irrigation water (fig. 3), particularly in the East, which does not have the organized irrigation enterprises of the West. Before World War II irrigation was not considered necessary in the humid East. Now many farmers in the East are irrigating their crops.
Fig. 03. Water is pumped out of this pond for irrigation.
Water requirements for irrigation are greater than those for any other purpose discussed in this handbook. The area irrigated from a farm pond is limited by the amount of water available throughout the growing season. Pond capacity must be adequate to meet crop requirements and to overcome unavoidable water losses. For example, a 3-inch application of water on 1 acre requires 81,462 gallons. Consequently, irrigation from farm ponds generally is limited to high-value crops on small acreages, usually less than 50 acres.
The required storage capacity of a pond used for irrigation depends on these interrelated factors: water requirements of the crops to be irrigated, effective rainfall expected during the growing season, application efficiency of the irrigation method, losses due to evaporation and seepage, and the expected inflow to the pond. Your local NRCS conservationist can help you estimate the required capacity of your irrigation pond.
Many land users are finding that fish production is profitable. A properly built and managed pond can yield from l00 to 300 pounds of fish annually for each acre of water surface. A good fish pond can also provide recreation (fig. 4) and can be an added source of income should you wish to open it to people in the community for a fee.
Fig. 04. A pond stocked with fish can provide recreation as well as profit.
Ponds that have a surface area of a quarter acre to several acres can be managed for good fish production. Ponds of less than 2 acres are popular because they are less difficult to manage than larger ones. A minimum depth of 8 feet over an area of approximately 1,000 square feet is needed for best management.
Field and orchard spraying
You may wish to provide water for applying pesticides to your field and orchard crops. Generally, the amount of water needed for spraying is small, but it must be available when needed. About l00 gallons per acre for each application is enough for most field crops. Orchards, however, may require 1,000 gallons or more per acre for each spraying.
Provide a means of conveying water from the pond to the spray tank. In an embankment pond, place a pipe through the dam and a flexible hose at the downstream end to fill the spray tank by gravity. In an excavated pond, a small pump is needed to fill the tank.
A dependable water supply is needed for fighting fire. If your pond is located close to your house, barn, or other buildings, provide a centrifugal pump with a power unit and a hose long enough to reach all sides of all the buildings. Also provide for one or more dry hydrants (figs. 5 and 6).
Fig. 05. A dry hydrant is needed when a pond is close enough to a home or barn to furnish water for fire fighting. ￼￼
Although water-storage requirements for fire protection are not large, the withdrawal rate for fire fighting is high. A satisfactory fire stream should be at least 250 gallons per minute with pressure at the nozzle of at least 50 pounds per square inch. Fire nozzles generally are 1 inch to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Use good quality rubber-lined firehoses, 2-1/2 to 3 inches in diameter. Preferably, the hose should be no more than 600 feet long.
Fig. 06. Details of a dry hydrant installation.
A typical firehose line consists of 500 feet of 3-inch hose and a 1-1/8 inch smooth nozzle. A centrifugal pump operating at 63 pounds per square inch provides a stream of 265 gallons per minute with a nozzle pressure of 50 pounds per square inch. Such a stream running for 5 hours requires 1/4 acre-foot of water. If you live in an area protected by a rural fire fighting organization, provide enough storage to operate several such streams. One acre-foot of storage is enough for four streams.
Your local dealer in pumps, engines, and similar equipment can furnish the information you need about pump size, capacity, and engine horsepower.
A pond can provide many pleasant hours of swimming, boating, and fishing. The surrounding area can be made into an attractive place for picnics and games (fig. 7).
Fig. 07. Ponds are often used for private as well as public recreation.
Many land users realize additional income by providing water for public recreation. If the public is invited to use a pond for a fee, the area must be large enough to accommodate several parties engaged in whatever recreation activities are provided.
If a pond is to be used for public recreation, supply enough water to overcome evaporation and seepage losses and to maintain a desirable water level. A pond used for swimming must be free of pollution and have an adequate depth of water near a gently sloping shore. Minimum facilities for public use and safety are also needed. These facilities include access roads, parking areas, boat ramps or docks, fireplaces, picnic tables, drinking water, and sanitary facilities.
To protect public health, most states have laws and regulations that require water supplies to meet certain prescribed standards if they are to be used for swimming and human consumption. Generally, water must be tested and approved before public use is permitted.
There are also rules and regulations for building and maintaining public sanitary facilities. The state board of health or a similar agency administers such laws and regulations. Contact your local health agency to become familiar with those regulations before making extensive plans to provide water for public recreation.
Waterfowl and other wildlife
Ponds attract many kinds of wildlife. Migratory waterfowl often use ponds as resting places in their flights to and from the North. Ducks often use northern ponds as breeding places, particularly where the food supply is ample (fig. 8). Upland game birds use ponds as watering places.
Fig. 08. Waterfowl use ponds as breeding, feeding, watering places, and as resting places during migration￼.
Water adds variety to a landscape and further enhances its quality. Reflections in water attract the eye and help to create a contrast or focal point in the landscape (fig. 9). A pond visible from a home, patio, or entrance road increases the attractiveness of the landscape and often increases land value. Ponds in rural, suburban, and urban areas help to conserve or improve landscape quality.
Fig. 09. The shoreline of a well-designed pond is protected from erosion by the addition of stone.
Regardless of its purpose, a pond’s appearance can be improved by using appropriate principles and tech- niques of design. Good design includes consideration of size, site visibility, relationship to the surrounding landscape and use patterns, and shoreline configuration.
Your local NRCS conservationist can help you apply the basic principles and design techniques. Consult a landscape architect for additional information and special designs.
You may wish to use the water in your pond for more than one purpose; for example, to provide water for livestock, fish production, and spraying field crops. If so, two additional factors must be considered.
First, in estimating your water requirements you must total the amounts needed for each purpose and be sure that you provide a supply adequate for all the intended uses.
Second, make sure that the purposes for which the water is to be used are compatible. Some combinations, such as irrigation and recreation, generally are not compatible. You would probably use most of the water during the irrigation season, making boating and swimming impractical.
Ponds used temporarily for grade control or as sediment basins associated with construction sites can be converted later into permanent ponds by cleaning out the sediment, treating the shoreline, and adding landscape measures (fig. 10). If a sediment basin is to be cleaned and reconstructed as a water element, the standards for dam design should be used.
Fig. 10. This pond, which served as a sediment basin while homes in the background were being constructed, now adds variety and value to the community.
[Next: Preliminary investigations (pp. 9-12)]
Water Needs (pp. 2-8)