Aboveground vs. Belowground Ponds Overview

Reader Contribution by Darrell Rhoades
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Ponds are amazing, mysterious, soothing and can magically melt our daily stress away. How are ponds able to creating these feelings? My personal thought is that they are part of what we are made of, because our bodies are mostly made up of water. Water gives life and it permeates our days with the gentle sounds of waves lapping on shore or from a fountain or waterfall, and with physical sensations from dangling our feet in the water and swimming. Without water, most life will cease to exist — which is why we need to consider the water resources on our properties. High quality water means healthy ponds.

Aboveground vs. Belowground Ponds

Let’s take a look at two different types of ponds. Both provide water, sound and various wildlife attraction. Let’s classify ponds into to two categories. The first one is built aboveground and the second is below ground.

Aboveground ponds. Some of the names aboveground ponds go by are Koi Pond, Water Garden, and Water Feature. These ponds are measured in gallons and, 99 percent of the time, they use a liner to contain the water. For a lack of a better term, we’ll call them a closed system, similar to an aboveground swimming pool where we install a liner to contain the water and a pump to circulate the water. Small aboveground ponds almost always have a waterfall built into them and sometimes a stream between the waterfall and the pond area. There are many variations to the abovegrounds: They can be built simply with a liner and a pump and would generally have Koi or goldfish. If you don’t want to deal with fish but want to have a water feature, you could build a pond-less waterfall, where the pond area is contained in a liner underground

Belowground ponds. Belowground ponds — farm ponds, tanks, pools or reservoirs — are measured in acres or square feet. Water fills the pond naturally from the watershed, springs or a water well. They are built using earth with high clay content to retain the water, similar to aboveground ponds, but building with the right type of clay soil saves on the expense of using a liner.

Components of a Large Pond

There are three main parts of a large pond: The watershed supplies water to keep the pond full. A good watershed would be from a grassy field or woodland, while a poor watershed would be from planted fields or grazing livestock or from populated areas. The bowl or basin where the water is stored creating the pond is the area to be excavated to create the depression and the removed material will be the used for the dam. The final component is the water exit, a controlled area for excess water to leave the pond without creating erosion.

Generally, a stand pipe or overflow pipe is used to maintain the level of the pond water during regular rain events. But it is also a smart idea to include an emergency spillway for rain events such as a major thunder storm, hurricane, or even snow melt events.

In the past, ponds were used for fire suppression, and as water storage for crops and livestock. But as time goes on, ponds have been demanded to take on other roles, such as providing a place for fishing, swimming, kayaking and many other recreational activities.

These larger ponds can range from a 1/8-acre to five acres, depending on the land you own, type of soil and size of the watershed to feed the pond. They attract a variety of wildlife, birds, deer, turkey and insects. Of course, the types of animals that will visit your paradise for a drink or that will make your pond part of their new home depends on your location.

Over all, I look at a pond as an investment for yourself, your property and as a way to give back to nature by creating another ecosystem for plants, insects and animals to flourish. (Not to mention the benefits that come from simply sitting by the pond and letting your stress melt away.)

Before you begin to move an ounce of earth, consider the pond type that will work best with your property and life. Too many times we get excited about a project such as building a pond and jump in headfirst only miss a step along the way for lack of initial planning. WhatPond.com has plenty of information about building a pond and managing a pond feel free to browse around or search the site.

Photos by WhatPond