Managing an urban pond? It’s about balancing the aesthetic qualities of the pond with the functional and recreational needs of the community.
Community ponds function primarily in stormwater retention; however, they also serve as amenities for the residents. The objective of urban pond management is to maintain the aesthetic qualities of the pond while conserving the recreational uses of the resource. Management practices include aquatic vegetation control, nutrient reduction, water quality maintenance, and fisheries management.
The most important component of community pond management is education. Communication is fundamental when establishing a pond management program. Every pond is unique in its properties and the expectations of residents should be defined accordingly. There are cases where inherent design flaws or physical changes over time make ponds very difficult to maintain.
Shallow water, sunlight and excess nutrients make pond management difficult. Ideally, ponds should be at least 3 feet deep at the shoreline with a maximum depth of 12 feet. This reduces sunlight penetration to the bottom where algae and aquatic vegetation begins to grow. However, that is rarely the case in urban areas. Organic matter and silt from storm runoff accumulates on the pond bottom creating shallow water.
Algae and aquatic vegetation is an eyesore and can negatively impact water quality. It causes wide swings in dissolved oxygen levels. This is critical during the summer when water holds minimal oxygen and fish survival is in the balance. Excess growth also clogs fountains, pumps, and irrigation intakes. Shoreline aquatic vegetation offers mosquitoes an ideal breeding site and provides shelter for snakes and other undesirable wildlife.
Excess algae and vegetation? Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to the rescue.
Noxious aquatic growth should be managed using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices. IPM for ponds includes dredging, sunlight reduction, nutrient management, supplemental aeration/fountains, algaecide/herbicide applications, and biological controls. The methods selected are determined by the specific use of the pond, available resources, and government regulations. Ideally, aquatic plant management should be a combination of methods that work harmoniously with the environment.
The main problem in urban ponds is lawn fertilizer runoff that fuels the uncontrolled growth of algae and aquatic plants. Even light rainfall can wash a significant amount of nutrients into a pond causing severe algae blooms overnight. It is important for landscape providers to maintain a buffer zone between fertilizer applications and the water’s edge.
Nutrient deprivation products are relatively new to pond management. In addition to clearing muddy water, these products lock up available phosphorus thereby restricting noxious aquatic growth.
Supplementation with beneficial microbes can also be effective when used under the right conditions. While chemicals address the symptoms of the problem, naturally occurring microbes address the cause of the problem. Microbes work by consuming excess nutrients, thereby reducing the available phosphorus that algae need to grow. Microbial treatments work best in small, highly oxygenated ponds.
The use of pond colorants reduces the frequency of algaecide and herbicide applications. These dyes shade the water column and reduce sunlight penetration. Colorants should only be used in ponds with minimal outflow.
All chemical treatments we apply are safe for you and the pond.
All products labeled for use in ponds are rigorously tested for years before being approved. These products pose no harm to people, fish, nor wildlife when used properly. Whether it be a pond colorant, algaecide/herbicide, or nutrient binding product, you can rest assured that the product is EPA approved for its specific use. In fact, most of these products have a safety factor of 2-50 times higher than caffeine and aspirin.
Weather conditions often dictate when these products can be applied. To ensure efficacy, products can’t be applied during or immediately after rain events. High winds prevent proper application of pond products. And, extremely hot weather increases the risk of fish suffocation due to low oxygen. Therefore, there are times when all algaecide/herbicide applications must be put on hold.
Fountains, aeration and fishing management programs help.
Fountains and bottom aerators are used to enhance water quality. Floating fountains come in an array of sizes and spray patterns and can be equipped with lights to showcase community properties at night. They are also effective at minimizing stagnant water areas where mosquito larvae thrive. However, fountains are not the cure to aquatic vegetation problems.
Community ponds serve not only as aesthetic amenities, but offer many recreational opportunities. Stocking gamefish is relatively inexpensive and creates a fishing resource which can be conveniently utilized by both children and experienced anglers.
Some degree of management is required after fish are stocked. The biggest mistake made in small urban ponds is the enforcement of “Catch and Release Only”. Catch and release should only apply to ponds stocked within the past 3 years. Once the population has matured, it is important that some fish be harvested. Largemouth bass can quickly overpopulate and starve. The result is an unbalanced population consisting only of small bass. The simplest regulation for small urban ponds is a 14 inch maximum length limit. This means that you should remove some bass if they are less than 14 inches long.