Why does our industry exist?
Each pond and lake is a unique ecosystem. There is no magical cure for pond and lake problems. It is possible for two ponds, side by side, to have radically different problems. This is why it is essential to understand the causes of the problems, as well as the effects.The factors that affect most ponds and lakes are:
- Water Depth
- Chemical Composition
- Excess Nutrients
- Excess Plant Growth
- Water Movement
Each factor will be addressed and given recommendations on how to improve the lake quality. Keep in mind that each lake is a separate ecosystem, so all of the factors are interrelated.
Water depth is a limiting factor for several types of plants. The deeper the water, the less light will penetrate. Light is a key factor in plant growth. With water depth that is less than four feet deep; light will penetrate to the lake bottom and can allow excess plant growth. These plant growths are called blooms. Shallow water also heats up quicker and can cause blooms. Deeper lakes may still develop blooms, but they usually occur on the edges where the water is shallower. In summary, the deeper the lake, the better.
Water clarity is also a limiting factor for plants. Clarity is a measure of light penetration through the water. The clearer the water, the further light will penetrate. Clarity can be manipulated with the use of dyes. Dyes are food quality, non-toxic products that are added to the water column. There are several choices of colors: blue, blue-black and black. Depending on the situation, one color may be more appealing.
The chemical composition of the water can promote or retard the growth of plants. This is one factor that cannot be easily regulated and in some instances, may be detrimental to do so. The chemical composition of a pond include: pH, alkalinity, conductivity, dissolved solids, nitrogen and phosphorus. All of these factors can be monitored and problems or sources can be identified. If adjustments are necessary, then it is easier to proceed in a way to benefit the ecosystem.
Sedimentation or erosion of banks, into the water feature can cause many problems. This process will create shallow shelves at the site, once again, promoting blooms. Stabilizing the banks during construction is critical. Stabilization can be accomplished by hydro-seeding the banks or laying sod. If shallow shelves are already present, plants may need to be installed. The use of native aquatic plants can beautify a pond, as well as help absorb nutrients from runoff. Plants should be installed with spacing from one foot centers (quicker establishment) to three foot centers (longer establishment). Good choices for plantings include the following:
- Blue Flag Iris – Iris virginica
- Soft Rush – Juncus effusus
- Water Lily – Nymphaea odorata
- Maidencane – Panicum hemitomon
- Pickerelweed – Pontederia cordata
- Three-square – Scirpus americanus
Nutrient loading can come from many sources including the following:
Fertilizer in lakes or fertilizer runoff can create a major problem. One pound of phosphorus (the middle number in fertilizer, such as 10-10-10) could result in more than 10,000 pounds of wet algae – this problem can be reduced by using a non-phosphorus fertilizer and a slow release nitrogen source. Watering time can be reduced to reduce nutrient runoff.
Runoff from surrounding areas can be difficult to control. There may not be a way to control what flows into the pond, but there is a way to control the absorption of the runoff. Planting native aquatic plants on the shelves near the inflow pipes will help absorb excess nutrients.
Grass clippings in lakes act as a fertilizer, thus fueling a bloom. Bagging the clippings around the banks or not blowing the clippings into the lake will help combat the problem.
Ducks and geese are a wonderful site on any pond, as long as there are not large numbers. Each bird can produce up to one cup of waste per day. This does not sound like a lot, but imagine 30-40 birds. Migrating birds cannot be stopped, but hand feeding can. The birds can find food on their own. When they are hand fed (such as bread), they usually will remain at the site of the food, which causes problems. Large numbers of waterfowl degrade water quality, which can lead to blooms, as well as outbreaks of avian disease. These diseases naturally occur and typically only effect stressed waterfowl. Stress occurs when they are in high numbers and are eating a poor diet.
Water temperature can accelerate plant growth. During the summer months, some shallow ponds may reach 90+ degrees. These ponds have now turned into green houses where plants grow at an alarming rate. In these situations, algae can reproduce every four hours and submersed vegetation (pond weeds) can grow one inch per day. If left unchecked, the ponds will be covered within a very short time. To combat this rapid growth, herbicide treatments are necessary. A treatment of a minimum of once a month is required. In some instances, two to four treatments are required during the summer months.
Water movement can help improve water quality and aesthetic value. Water movement can be achieved with fountains and diffuser systems. Fountains are more appealing to the eye but require more maintenance. Diffuser systems are generally less expensive and lower maintenance, but not as eye catching. Both systems help to keep water from becoming stagnant and reduce fish stress from low dissolved oxygen.
Excess Plant Growth (Blooms)
Excess plant growth is the final result when you combine any of the factors listed above. The ponds begin to look bad, smell bad and are a source of many complaints. Excessive plant growth can be controlled with several tools. One tool may help but several will get the job done.
Stocking fish, such as White Amur (grass carp) at a rate of fifteen fish per acre can help to slow the growth of some plants. Triploid Grass Carp should be stocked in the spring, while plant growth is slower. They DO NOT eat algae. While they are small, less than eight inches, they will eat some algae but it is not their preferred food source. Stocking fish larger than eight inches is preferred, due to a lower mortality rate.
Herbicide applications are the most effective tools available. Monthly inspections, with treatments as necessary, will help keep growth to an acceptable level. Some ponds may require multiple treatments during a month, which can be included in the yearly treatment schedule.
Some sites may become stagnant and require an aeration system (fountain or diffuser system). In hot water with no movement, algae thrive. However, even with the best aerators, blooms can still occur.
Total Management Plan
This is your toolbox. Pond management should be set up to include a yearly treatment schedule (8 or more inspections per year depending on the site), aeration installation in appropriate sites, fish stocking and professional consulting.
Ponds and lakes are complicated systems to manage. We, at ESTATE MANAGEMENT SERVICES, Inc., are here to do just that. Through a monthly maintenance program, we can identify and correct the problems as they arise. We offer total pond and lake management programs that include: professional consulting, dying lakes, water quality testing, algae and submersed vegetation control, border grass and brush control, fish stocking, wetland plantings and mosquito control.
Do you need an Aquatic Survey on your pond or lake?
If so, we can help! Contact us and we will send you a short survey asking information about your pond or lake. Once we receive it, we will offer recommendations on how to control and better manage your pond or lake.
- SIMPLY Request a survey form
- Send us the completed short survey asking information about your pond or lake.
- A small vial or sample of water may be necessary for water chemistry testing.
- Provide any details and information, not included in the survey, about the pond or lake that may be helpful.
- Photos of the site are helpful.