Ponds: Not just a pretty face

By Teresa Lott
Water Resources Agent, Clemson Extension

Ponds are a common feature of residential neighborhoods in the Pee Dee and in many instances, the lots associated with these ponds are considered premium real estate. What most people don’t know is that while touted as an amenity, the ponds are stormwater ponds and constructed to serve two basic functions: flood control and water quality protection.

Take the pond in my neighborhood (Richmond Hills) for example. I’m quite sure the property owners around the pond selected those lots because of the appeal of waterfront property. However, the purpose of the pond is flood control and water quality protection. During rain events, stormwater is routed off roads and to the pond where it is held long enough for natural process to remove some sediment and pollutants.

I’m not sure how much appeal the pond has at the moment as it looks and smells absolutely dreadful. The problem is an overgrowth of algae, aka “pond scum”. Algae are a normal and necessary component of a pond but can grow out of control when supplied with excess nutrients.

Where do these nutrients come from? One source is fertilizers, especially phosphorus. You can help keep fertilizers from wreaking havoc on our waterways by following some best management practices.

1. Have your soil tested so you know what nutrients are needed. You may find that no phosphorus is needed (that is the middle number on a fertilizer bag).

2. Don’t apply before a heavy rain is expected, as it is likely to be washed into a waterbody rather than into the soil where it can be used by plants.

3. If fertilizer ends up on hard surfaces like driveways or sidewalks, sweep or blow it back onto the lawn.

4. Create a no now zone between the lawn and pond. This will slow water as it flows across the landscape so that it has time to soak in. It will also help to stabilize the shoreline so that valuable waterfront property doesn’t wash away. Turfgrass isn’t a good choice for the water’s edge. It’s best to use native plants with deeper root systems but if you can’t part with your turf, allowing it to grow taller will help to a degree.

Pet waste is another source of nutrients (as well as bacteria, viruses, and parasites). I encounter other people’s pet waste on a daily basis. I realize that people may be unaware that is contributes to algae growth in ponds but surely the “eew” factor of the possibility of stepping in it comes to mind. No matter the motivation, please pick up and dispose of your pet’s waste. Your neighbor’s will thank you for it.

If you’re inspired to do your part to protect our local waterways, especially stormwater ponds, you’ll find lots of helpful information at Clemson’s Stormwater Pond Problem Solving website: Stormwater Ponds

Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.

Author: Jana Pye

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