So You Want to Build a Pond?

Posted on: August 31, 2023

There are many ponds in Warren County. Some are attractive, full of water, and look healthy. Some are only half full, choked with weeds, and an eyesore on the landscape. If you are considering building a pond on your property, which type you might end up with (attractive or eyesore) depends largely upon some careful research and planning before the bulldozers and backhoes roll in. The two most important considerations are soil type/texture within the pond site and the quantity/quality of the drainage area feeding into the pond site.


Soil conditions vary widely and sometimes abruptly across the landscape. The ideal soils for pond construction are fine silty clays that pack well with low permeability. Warren Co SWCD's office recommends that soils be investigated early in the planning process to identify whether suitable clay is available within the site. This investigation can generally be performed with a normal construction backhoe. A series of holes are dug within the site to a depth exceeding the expected pond bottom. This reveals the soil profile that will be encountered during construction. If the planned pond will require the construction of a dam, special attention should be given to the area of this proposed structure. This is a small investment of time and money and is well worth it before effort is expended on a failed project.  


Surface water runoff is the source of water for almost all ponds in Warren County. It is important that the site has the proper sized watershed (drainage area) in relation to the pond size desired. A good rule of thumb is: If you want a 1-acre pond, the watershed should be a minimum of 6 acres (6:1 ratio) or a maximum of 30 acres (30:1 ratio). The land use within the watershed is also important. A well-vegetated and clean drainage area will provide the best water for a pond site. Areas of potential pollution, such as septic leach fields, concentrated livestock areas, cultivated areas, and road ditches increase the possibility of contaminated water reaching the pond site. Ideally, it’s preferable that the pond owner has control and management of the entire drainage area where possible. That way, the owner knows and controls the quality of the water coming into the pond.

Ponds may just seem like holes in the ground that collect water, but there is much to consider in planning for and maintaining a successful one. Warren Co SWCD technicians are available to consult with Warren County landowners who are planning to build or need advice on managing a pond on their property. Our technical assistance calls are always free and we encourage everyone to take advantage of these services! For more information, call Warren County SWCD at (513) 695-1337.