Hello! I am working on the water systems for my property. I have been reading up on Keyline design and ponds and swales, watch Geoff lawtons DVD on making a pond and reading everything I can get my hands on by Sepp Holzer but I am still just a happy amateur and I have never actually done anything of this practically. So I would love some directions and critiques on my planning so far.
The top left pond on the sketch is a place where there is an old well and a bit below it there is a little ruin where there was a washing house in old times, the well is always full to the brim, probably because it takes in runoff water so I think it would be possible to dig it out and increase its volume a bit (?), next there is a place where water collects naturally, I think it takes alot of water because it is in a place that I would call a keypoint (maybe not correctly but it is the place where the valley starts to flatten and where the runoff is concentrated), all that water is at the moment passed by the horseriding paddock (the big flat area) and into the creek in the primary valley, I figure if I dig this area out and fill in the trench and dig a new one to collect the water in a third small pond/wetland/reedbed and then on to the main pond, from the main ponds spillway I plan to let the water go to a small pond on a flat surface where its generally pretty wet and then down to the lowpoint of the property to finally go down into the creek.
In the areas above the ponds there is shallow soil on bedrock so I think runoff is high, down where the valley starts to plain out I have high clay content. I have not yet found any good guide to calculate the volume for the ponds so they are just fantasy sized right now. Would love to get some help with this.
Some questions. Are there to many ponds? Will the water travel through the ditches or will it infiltrate on the way and not reach the next pond? Maybe I should just fill in the ditch above the paddock and let the water go straight from the second pond down into the main pond? in theory it would be great to be able to let the water travel such a long way. I can also collect all the water on the barn roof, which is maybe 90 m2 of corrugated steel roof on each side of the roof top, to the main pond.
I also include a map of some of the land forms and flows I have observed.
Joel, you've got some really big plans going on there. I've been maintaining an acre pond for 22 years and it's a lot of work. It's a lot of work in the spring when there are many other things that need doing, like planting and soil amending, and it's a lot of work when the water is low and there's access to plants that need clearing. It's a constant thought in a very wet season when it overflows and everything around it is saturated, and the gophers have tunneled all around it and water is flowing out through those tunnels and on down the hill in places I didn't suspect.
So for starters I would say, do you want to turn your life over to pond maintenance? Water plants are growing almost more than 24/7, and they need cutting and removing or they will fill in your pond. The plants that the ducks and birds bring in on their feet will also start to take over and fill in your pond. Fast moving water will fill it in with sediment. Low water years and animal manures from their coming to the edge to drink, leaving manure at lower and lower levels will bring in algae, that will also fill in your pond. I've had to deal with all of these.
And like my dad always said, you give water a place to run and it keeps cuttin' and cuttin'. And, boy, it sure does. So all those connectors runs you've got between ponds are going to keep cuttin', especially when it's a heavy wet season. It's a lot of work to try to slow water down, and it could require strategically placed rip-rap, chunks of concrete lining those things. That water could also jump those channels and go straight on down, causing erosion.
Not sure how long you've had your place, and if you've observed the water flow and seepage for more than a year, particularly in the wettest season, but your property has already decided where that water is going to go, and it's easier on everyone, and the budget, to see where it flows and seeps, and not try to steer it to someplace that you think it would look better. It will keep going where it wants to go, unless you have the State highway department engineers and equipment at your disposal.
I would start out simple. See where a main pond should be according to where the water sits and is sloppy in the ground. Try to dig deeper, rather than put a dam across an area, then you don't have to worry about erosion of a dam in a bad rainy year. They are very high maintenance, not just from rain but from rodents getting into them. Wherever the pond overflows naturally, that's where it should overflow.
Live with one pond for an entire year, four seasons, and see how it goes, and if you like maintaining it. I have three different kinds of boats to maintain mine, because a rowboat moves away from a water plant the minute you make the clipping gesture with a tool. I need two docks (expensive and maintenance oriented, animals chew on them), ramps, clipping and cutting tools nearby, pool scoop to get out the duckweed and the algae, and plans for a couple of cement ramps that allow for backing in trailers to haul out the reeds, willow branches, and huge loads of duckweed and algae.
If you commit that much of the land to ponds, even if you love doing all of the above, you may find out in the future you could have planted an orchard or a vineyard in one of the less-wet areas that takes care of itself, and taps into the ground water, stabilizes the hillside. So leave yourself some zones that have ground water for future experiments.
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
posted 4 years ago
Here's an example of how just an 18" change in where a drainage channel went alongside my driveway made a world of difference. I feel pretty foolish that this didn't dawn on me years ago. I kept trying to keep the driveway where it had always been....major mistake.
My driveway goes downhill to the road with a drainage channel parallel to it. During bad rainstorms the water flows fast and first takes out the gravel on the driveway, parks it on the road, and erodes the driveway for 200 feet, requiring new loads of gravel, getting out in the rainstorm trying to divert it so it won't do more damage, hauling my own gravel because the gravel trucks won't come out when it's that wet, shoveling it all over again.
It was like this for 20 years until a massive rainstorm did it again, 200 feet of erosion channel, floating 1 1/2 inch rock down it. I just said, okay, if that's the way you want it, the driveway gets moved over, and that's where the draining ditch goes. It wasn't that big of a project, and since then I have absolutely no worries about heavy rains, because the driveway never gets eroded anymore, and it all stays nicely in the drainage area it kept trying to tell me about!! No lost gravel, no extra work for me!
posted 4 years ago
Hello Cristo! Thank you very much for your reple. Just the kind I need.
I will get back to the drawing table and rethink the size and placement of the ponds a bit. The connectors are definitly way to long, I thought that while drawing but I just got carried away i guess. I can probably take away the pond to the south all together and the one on the right of the paddock aswell. Probably wont need a connector to the lowest pond then either. Perhaps a monk so I can empty the main pond which I think I will make a little bit smaller.
A one acre pond is huge, its many times times the size of the biggest of these pond, or am I making a mistake in my conversion from hectares to acres. Anyway my question is, at what size do you think a pond goes from medium or low maintenance to very high?
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
posted 4 years ago
Joel, I'd say my pond is a little less than half a hectare, if 1 hectare - approx. 2.4 acres. It's about 3/4 lined with reeds. It should be 1/2 lined with reeds, but this year got ahead of me. One half of it has 3 mature willow trees at the edges whose roots are under water 3/4 of the year. Most of the man-made ponds around my area are planted this way. It creates a critter habitat that keeps away the mosquitoes, which is another big consideration. Water that stands still has to have frogs, newts, dragonflies, fish, birds (flocks of swallows come three times a day divebombing for mosquitoes) so that it doesn't just become a bug puddle. If you have a constant flow of water year 'round you might have less of a problem. Turns out that newts emit a toxic substances from their skin, which I just learned about, but they eat lots of stuff that keeps the pond healthy. Always handle them with gloves, if you have to handle them at all. We just had about 8 weeks of a heavy algae bloom and have been scooping algae with baby newts in it that I go through and take them out, so I've been handling maybe 50 a week, but with gloves.
About how much work it is, I really love the pond, so I am willing to do what it takes to keep it under control. There are ongoing maintenance things from spring through fall. It's easier to keep the reeds under control by clipping new growth in the spring. That's maybe an hour a week in early spring. Then as it warms up the plants that grow on the surface, like duckweed (the birds bring it in on their feet, so there's no escaping it) needs to be scooped with a pool scooper. I don't use poison sprays on the water. Scooping takes about 4 hours on one day a week, or it can be spread out over the week.
And I set aside a mid-fall month when the water is lowest to really clean it up, cut back reeds, get the fallen willow branches out of there, (it's amazing how many of those fall in a windstorm) pull any unwanted water plants the ducks and birds bring in on their feet. Cut with a saw big willow branches, haul them away, stack them for firewood. All of this stuff can be composted, which is great. I think of it as harvesting rather than chores.
The boats have to be kept out of the sun and up away from chewing rats. No inflatable boats, as one tooth imprint from a rat or mouse and it's history, and that happened within the first two weeks of having an inflatable boat. I have a fiberglass rowboat and a heavy molded pedal boat for clipping reeds while in the water. Any clipping gesture in a rowboat sends the rowboat away from what you're trying to clip, but the pedal boat stays in place. I built a small 'barge" that holds a muck bucket, that gets pulled around by the pedal boat that the scooped duckweed or algae goes into. Then it gets dragged onshore, spread out to pull out tadpoles, newts, whatever might be in it, then hauled to the garden for compost, where it gets dragged around and shoveled into place. So you can see this is a time consuming activity. But it's no different from hauling and shoveling manure.
I have a dock that is for fun, but also holds a water pump for irrigation. It needs maintenance. And if you have the kind of swimming critters that chew on the floating foam billets that hold up the dock, that foam has to be covered with chicken wire first so they can't get to it. Some rats chew it, beavers chew it, etc. The dock floats up and down with changing water levels, so that's why it's on dock foam. As long as the foam is kept out of the sun, it will last. Mine is about 15 years old, and it's not in bad shape.
Lately I've been admiring the cement steps that go down hillsides and underwater in Italy, at Lake Como. Now, there's centuries of people who know how to live at the edge of water. No maintenance there for sitting, launching, dragging stuff out. Look at web pictures of places like that to see how people have been doing it for hundreds of years, and keeping it simple and long-lasting.
But I make sure I float on the pond for fun one hour a week if the weather is good. It's a real treat. The bird life and critters that come to the pond are great to watch and be around. Picnics are always great at a pond. It's also a great place to be, even when you have to work on it.
You’ll find me in my office. I’ll probably be drinking. And reading this tiny ad.