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How small is too small?

 
gardener
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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I was thinking I might put in a pond at my new place, when I find it, when I get there....

It will be in semi arid conditions, and though I may be lucky enough to have a spring, I might not.

I don't want a rubber liner, might have to fill with well water if the summer is too dry.  Is this even a practical idea, or should I just forget about a pond in semi arid if I don't have an abundant water source?

Thanks
 
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Hi Thelka, glad to see you posting again...Kidding season must be over or did I just miss some of your posts?

You ask a tough question, partly because Permiculture is pushing the boundaries to get water where it normally does not flow/collect, and so to that endeavor you are spot on, but at the same time fighting nature for your own gain might be a battle that you cannot win. The real question is how much effort and time are you willing to invest in the building of a pond in a semi-arid location? The next question is, is there a way you can increase your chances of success to reduce the risk of wasting time and effort on a dry depression?

Dowsing might be an option. My father does this, and I have known of others, and have seen it work...though Maine is not semi-arid either.
Keen observation is another possibility, as aquifers exist all over and may be closer to the surface in certain areas then others
Wet areas can be developed easily (and by hand) to help collect water from a large area to a point of collection like a pond
Springs exist where you least expect them

I know you know all this, but a reminder may help.

Last year I was clearing land and the guy kind of in charge of the project was from out of state and said he wanted a "water feature" in a certain spot. That was all well and good, but it was nothing spectacular and no place I would put a pond. But that is how it goes sometimes, and so I walked the excavator in there and started building a pond. Right in the middle I hit a spring, water started bubbling up and to make a long story short, the place now has (2) ponds, and a bridge between them, rock retaining walls and is actually quite nice looking. So I ate a lot of crow on that one, but that is good. I learned water can be where you least expect it.


 
Thekla McDaniels
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Thanks, and crow can be quite tasty when prepared by a talented cook.
 
gardener
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Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7B/8A
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Thekla McDaniels wrote:

I don't want a rubber liner, might have to fill with well water if the summer is too dry.  Is this even a practical idea, or should I just forget about a pond in semi arid if I don't have an abundant water source?

Thanks



 I know you said no liner, but this is an atypical way of using a liner that will keep it usable for many years:

 I have two existing very small ponds ( 1 1/2 feet / .5 meter deep , 10 feet /  3 meters wide) and am working on a third.  
They are saucer shaped, not deep holes in the ground.  this allows me to lay out a liner then cover the outer 1/3 or more of the edges of the liner with a layer of soil.
This keeps the liner out of the sun even during drought periods when it gets very low.  This also allows for wide, shallow, damp shores where water plants and frogs can live.

Of course you can make seasonal ponds without liners that you don't intend to be full all the time.  I have one "pond" like this.  It only stays full when there are days and days of hard rain.
The whole bottom is covered in thick clover that increasingly creates more and more organic matter and healthy soil there.   This might be considered more of a deep and short swale.


In short, any water retention you can create will benefit you, no matter how small.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Hi Cris,
Thanks for the perspective on small ponds.  In the shallow ponds with liners, does the liner go all the way up the side so there is no soaking in to the surrounding soil,or when the pond rises to the top of the liner can the surrounding soil get the moisture? For me, the soaking of th e soil is what I want to accomplish.

The thing you describe the shallow unlined pond is what we called a vernal pool in the coast range where I grew up.  Moisture coming in the winter as rain collected in depressions in the soil and by early summer had all dried up.  It created a special set of conditions and there were specific plants that grew only in vernal pools.  Very exciting for botanists.
 
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Where I'm from in Southern Ontario, salamanders, frogs and toads reproduce in vernal pools. They are thus able to avoid predation by carnivorous fish that must have a year-round water supply.

I would put the liner all the way to the top and pump water when it's needed. A deep pond without too much surface area will suffer less evaporative losses.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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yes, thanks,Dale, the shallow broad pond would lose a lot more water to the air in a semi arid climate wouldn't it. Not a very good use of a precious resource.  Glad you mentioned it.
 
Cris Bessette
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Mine are saucer shaped, not bowel shaped like most people tend to make ponds with liners.
This specifically allows for all overflow to soak into the surroundings around the ponds.
Two of them are filled by rain and runoff from my roof.
I have all kinds of plants planted around them that love damp soil.  


The new one I'm doing will only be filled by rain,
so I am making it with a much wider shallow, soil covered zone around the edges so that it will be able
to almost dry out without exposing the liner.


Kind of like these "Dew Ponds" :
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dew_pond



Yes, "vernal pond" would also work as a description for my unlinered pond.  It is usually full of green, happy plants, not water.
 
Cris Bessette
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Dale Hodgins wrote:
A deep pond without too much surface area will suffer less evaporative losses.




You make a good point.  The more surface area, the more evaporation.  

The typical problems with linered ponds in my experience is liner sliding down or being exposed to sunlight because of steep sides though.

That's what my first linered pond did. I dug the deepest hole the liner would fit in, and just enough liner coming up the sides to cram rocks on it to hold it , but every bit of liner that got exposed to sunlight and freezing/ thawing temps fell apart into crackly little pieces within a few years, the parts hidden under  soil were still fine.


The trick I've found is having deep areas, but a somewhat gradual climb to the outer edges of the liner.   A Balance between a deep center and shallow soil covered edges gives the best liner life, better naturalization with it's surroundings and reasonable evaporation loss.

Of course one could make bowl shaped pond with a water proofed concrete liner for the minimum surface area, but that's pretty expensive.
 
Thekla McDaniels
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and always:   humidity plays a big role in rate of evaporation.   I think in  humid conditions evaporation would not be a big problem, and in humid conditions, water to fill and refill would be more available.

In a semi arid situation, I believe I would go for a deep hole,maybe with liner, and surrounding the deep hole, a sloping side where the liner terminated, and was buried per Cris' description.   When the pond got down to the level of the top of the liner, it would no longer soak in to the soil, and would not lose as much to evaporation.

It remains a thought at this point,not a project in active planning stage.
 
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