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Water Drinking water, wells, ponds, saving, purifying, etc.

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Old 08-20-2010, 03:14 PM
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Default Ideas for sealing a pond

I need some ideas and input on this one. I've got a pond that needs some help. Here's the history of it;

20 years ago it was dug new, approximately 1/4-1/3 surface area, 8' deep, and basically only held a puddle in the bottom. At the time, Dad was renting out pasture (cattle) on a field adjacent to the field where my pond is. We decided to move the cattle feeder up into my pond so the cows would have to tromp in the mud every time they ate. The more they tromped, the water level gradually increased with each rain and we'd drag the feeder a little further up the bank. In a season, this method had the pond standing brim full and stable. It stayed full for about 2 years, then developed a leak and went dry in about 10 days. It was obvious that all the water went straight out the bottom, based on a bushel basket sized depression right in the bottom after all the water was gone.

Southern Indiana is notorious for underground caves, so we assumed that there must be a fissure just below the this spot where the water found a path out. Some time later, I had a backhoe in doing some other work so I had him dig a hole in that spot down another 10' or so just to see if there was rock or whatever. All we found was good red clay, a good sign. A couple of years later, I had a dozer in to re-shape things a bit, deepening the pond (now 10' or so), re-keying the dam over the spot where the water previously drained. The dozer operator, experienced in digging ponds, said this looked as promising as any of the 100 or so that he'd dug in his career and thought it should hold. Since that time, it keeps a puddle about 4 1/2' deep year round. In a heavy rain it goes to 6-8' deep for a day or 2 then seeps down to the 4-5' level. I find no wet places outside the pond where the water is obviously leaking to, so I believe it's going out the bottom again and that the dirt somehow isn't holding up to the hydraulic pressure involved with the increased water column.

I'm considering the following attack plans to try to deal with this and would like some input.

1) a liner - not really considering this for a variety of reasons, just wanted to address that I hadn't overlooked it.

2) Bentonite - I've heard too many mixed results with this in this area. Based on the history of this pond, I'm not certain that this by itself would be the best answer.

3) Dirtcrete - Seriously considering this, mixing portland cement with the dirt in the bottom of the pond to set up a "cement pond" as it were to have a good basin to deal with the head pressures. This, in conjunction with bentonite to seal the cracks that will likely develop I think has a good chance.

4) Hogs - it's well known that hogs wallowing can seal a pond. Partly because of the compaction, partly because of how they acidfy the dirt causing it to have a tighter magnetic bond molecularly. Maybe even do this along with the addition of bentonite. My biggest concern with this method is will it have the same result that the cows did years ago.

Right now I'm leaning toward the hog solution first. If I drain the pond down (pump) to about 12-24" deep and put some hogs in there now, I can at least finish them out (I have surplus grain and pasture available for them at no additional cost to me) and have a couple to put up ourselves and sell the rest and likely recoup my purchase price for the lot. At worst, We'll have cheap pork this winter, and I might get a functioning pond out of the deal.

Does anyone have experience with any of this? For a variety of reasons, getting this pond to work is a high priority item for us and the sooner the better. FWIW, there's another pond on the neighbors property that was dug in '69 that's never leaked a drop since it was built. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
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Old 08-20-2010, 09:40 PM
bookwormom bookwormom is offline
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you certainly know a lot more about ponds than I. but since you asked, I would go with the pigs and add some bentonite, too. Very best wishes that it will hold.
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Old 08-21-2010, 01:50 AM
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Thanks bookwormom! Unfortunately, I don't feel like I know anything about ponds, otherwise I'd have gotten this &#^#*! thing to hold water 20 years ago. Fortunately though I have had access to people who do know things and had sense enough to listen and remember most of what I heard.

I'm hopeful that someone here will point out something I've overlooked in the next few days, but otherwise we're going forward with raising some pigs under the guise of fixing a pond.
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Old 08-21-2010, 02:13 AM
keydl keydl is offline
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The way grandpa did was dirtcrete where the cows came to water and bentonite under about a 6 in lift of dirt. This was in western Kansas with over 75 feet of sugar sand that will sink 10 feet of water in 1/2 a day.
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Old 09-02-2010, 02:06 PM
jhnpldng jhnpldng is offline
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Look up Sodium Bentonite.
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Old 09-02-2010, 02:23 PM
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A friend of mine has a leaky pond also. He got acquainted with a billboard company and has accumulated more than enough vinyl billboards (they are like big tarps made of reinforced vinyl) so he's going to line the pond with them.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you whether or not it worked. We have to get out there and do it first.

Water is an amazing thing. The more you want to keep it out, the harder it works to get in. The more you want to keep it in, the harder it works to get out. Funny how that is.
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Old 09-02-2010, 02:34 PM
bookwormom bookwormom is offline
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My grandfather always said, water has a very small head.

I thought about your pond some more,a nd you said in the middle it had a hole as big as a bushelbasket. sounds like the drain of a bathtub. I think I would try to plug that with bentonite first, dump a bag full of it into it and hope the water will take it where the leaks are and plug them.
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Old 09-02-2010, 07:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by randallhilton View Post
A friend of mine has a leaky pond also. He got acquainted with a billboard company and has accumulated more than enough vinyl billboards (they are like big tarps made of reinforced vinyl) so he's going to line the pond with them.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you whether or not it worked. We have to get out there and do it first.
I considered that a few years ago, and had a friend who acquired several retired signs for tarps he was willing to donate to the cause. I eventually decided against it because (1) the amount of exposed small stones I was afraid would eventually puncture the vinyl and (2) any future livestock would probably have the same result.

Quote:
Originally Posted by randallhilton View Post
Water is an amazing thing. The more you want to keep it out, the harder it works to get in. The more you want to keep it in, the harder it works to get out. Funny how that is.
That may be the understatement of the week.
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Old 09-02-2010, 07:56 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bookwormom View Post
My grandfather always said, water has a very small head.

I thought about your pond some more,a nd you said in the middle it had a hole as big as a bushelbasket. sounds like the drain of a bathtub. I think I would try to plug that with bentonite first, dump a bag full of it into it and hope the water will take it where the leaks are and plug them.
The original pond had, not so much a hole, but a depression about that size. Either way, the effect was just as you describe. Since then, we've re-dug the pond, paying particular attention to that area and brought in a vibrating sheepsfoot roller to compact the entire bottom. The roller operator commented when he was done about how firm the ground seemed to be and that it really didn't compact much.

This area of Indiana ponds are just a gamble. Some are dug and hold with no effort, and others that look very promising never hold a drop. Case in point, I'm now re-grading my back yard because water wants so badly to collect there instead of in the pond just 200' away. Randalhilton summed it up perfectly.

Since posting this originally, I'd decided to drain the water down to <2', put an electric fence around the area and see if hogs would do any good. Currently, we're experiencing a 2 month drought so getting fence posts in the ground ain't gonna happen. This weekend, we're going to pump out the remaining water, let it dry for a week or so and disc in some bentonite, then next spring if it's not holding, draw it back down and see if the hogs can work any magic. Not the timeframe I'd hoped for, but mother nature is n charge of this project.
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Old 09-03-2010, 12:48 AM
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I hope the pigs do their magic. out along the road a guy had a big pond in front of the house. It never held water, dry as a bone. for a lark he put a "no swimming" sign up. then he found out about pigs. It is a pond now.
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Old 10-22-2010, 10:17 PM
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Update on the pond project, FWIW.

Drained the pond completely about a month ago. Finally dry enough to work last weekend, all but an area about 10x20' in the lowest spot. Plowed with moldboard plow and worked repeatedly with disc. Just finished spreading bentonite over the bottom of it, about 30x50', where I think the source of the problem is. About 2000# spread and disced in. Tomorrow morning I'll go pack it down as best I can. Supposed to have some rains starting Sunday, starting out light and picking up by mid week (FINALLY! I think I heard the weatherman say that we've been 85 or so days without significant rainfall now.) so hopefully that will peg it in and give it a chance to swell then get 2-3" later in the week and give it some to stand. At least now I know I've got a heavy layer of clay in the bottom of it, hogs should be able to work their magic on the rest of it next summer.

Fingers crossed, wish me luck!
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Old 10-23-2010, 09:14 PM
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I have a friend that has a 5 or 6 ac pond. He said the dam leaked and he put some type of liquid coloring in to find the approx location. He had an old sleeping bag and waded to the area carefully and got to the spot where the leak was a let go of the sleeping bag. I am sure mud and silt has covered the bag. It has not leaked in 10 yrs. This could be a very dangerous thing to do if it is full of water. It is usually best to hire a pro. Try it at your own risk.
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Old 11-14-2010, 01:19 AM
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I remember when I was a kid, we had a neighbor who had the same problem with his pond. My dad kept telling him to put hogs in it and they would fix the problem. This neighbor was stubborn and wouldn't listen to my dad. About 3 years of doin this, doin that, and spending money he really couldn't afford he finally agreed to let my dad put some of our hogs in there. My dad put up a hot wire and put in about a dozen I think it was.
Left em in there about 3 maybe 4 months, took em out. That neighbor never had a problem with his pond again.
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