To those of you who own ponds and lakes in drought stricken areas during the last half of 2011, congratulations! You are probably getting some relief now. Chances are, though, that you have not seen a full recovery yet, but you probably see some hope for the first time in several months. Some areas suffered 100 degree plus temperatures for more than 90 days, and if the forecasters are right, you are due a mild summer this year. If you took the opportunnity to follow the advice we offered here during the drought, you should have everything in good condition going forward. We know one marina owner who took the opportunity to rebuild his existing docks and slips, and add several more slips. This will pay off in higher earnings for many years to come.
I wanted to list a few things that you should keep in mind while the water is returning to your beleaguered ponds and lakes:
- Check your pH early and often. Proper pH balance will lead to proper ecosystem balance in your pond or lake, especially if you need to fertilize.
- Turbidity may be a problem for a while until vegetation returns. Be prepared to flock your pond or lake if needed.
- Aerify if needed. Low water volume and less vegetation may lead to low dissolved oxygen levels. You may have to stir the water.
- Vegetation may be needed, both in the lake itself, and especially on the watershed. Make sure that something appropriate is growing both in, and around your pond. For the pond itself, choose non invasive native water loving plants. At least this way, you get to choose.
- Keep a sharp eye out for invasive exotic weeds. The lower water levels were an advantage if you took the opportunity to exterminate them while the drought conditions existed. Don’t lose that advantage now!
- It is going to take a lot of water and time to fill the last few feet. Ponds and lakes resemble funnels, it takes very little liquid to fill the spout, but the volume needed increases as the area increases. A foot of water at the bottom of a pond is a lot less water than the top foot.
- You will lose some of your gains through evaporation and saturation. Some will go back into the water cycle through the clouds, and some through the ground, and remember that the ground around your pond and lake will naturally absorb some water over time. Don’t lose heart as this happens.
- Due to lower water volume, and shallow water, you will probably experience an outbreak of pond scum. If this happens, take the measures to get rid of it, and start a low volume fertilizer program as soon as possible.
- If you think you have enough water to restock, make sure that everything else on this list is done first, and then proceed slowly and cautiously until water levels stabilize and conditions return to something resembling normal.
- As water levels approach normal ranges, be sure to inspect your dam frequently. It would be a shame to lose your water to a leaky dam at this stage.
By James Burns
10 things to do for your dried up drought stricken small lake or pond
These things happen from time to time. It is nearly inevitable unless you have a high volume spring feeding your pond or lake. The water will return.
We are having a severe drought, accompanied by a severe heat wave in some parts of the U.S. And many small lakes and ponds (and some very large ones too) are drying up. I know it is sad to see your pond or small lake drying out, and drying up, and I know there is probably little that can be done about it except to wait for the rains to return.
That does not mean that you should do nothing!
While there is little that can be done about the rain, that doesn’t mean you have to just take it as a loss. No, to the contrary, this is a great opportunity to perform maintenance, make improvements, and get your pond or small lake into the best condition possible before it refills. Don’t just set around and mope about it, get out there and do something productive. This opportunity won’t last forever! The water will return, and when it does, you can and should be prepared.
- If you have a dock, boathouse, or other structures on and directly adjacent to your lake, it is probably more accessible now than it has been in years. This would be the perfect time to do any needed repairs or upgrades. If you have been thinking of adding any of these features to your lake doing it before it refills will save you money.
- Dam inspection can be done at this time. It may be the only opportunity you have to visually inspect this part of your reservoir from the inside for many years.
- Overflow pipes can be checked and adjusted as required. Do not raise the level without professional advice about the safety of your dam.
- Debris removal can be accomplished on a dry like bed without having to fight the water. This is the time to remove that thing, or those things that have been bothering you for years. Who knows what kind of treasure might be out there?
- Consider making the edges of your pond deeper. Dredging can probably be done with a backhoe or loader at this stage. Making the water deeper at the edges will increase the amount of water your lake contains, and decrease the likelihood of weed and pond scum problems.
- If you suspect that your pond is leaky, this is also the perfect time to apply bentonite. It can be done with a tractor and spreader in much the same way you would apply fertilizer. The headland setting on your spreader will allow you to make unidirectional applications toward the center to cover areas that might still be to wet for the tractor.
- If pH has been a problem, this is the perfect chance to apply lime directly to the bottom where it is needed the most. Lime can be applied by tractor and spreader with a headland setting without having to get into marshy areas if the reservoir is dried completely, or nearly dry.
- If you have unwanted fish species in your pond, it will be easier to eliminate them now than at any other time. If you are like many people in the southern region of the country, it may be possible to physically remove unwanted fish without resorting to other more costly methods. You may need to get some advice from your county agent or from a professional to accomplish fish removal. Once this is done, and the water returns, you can restock with the appropriate species for your pond size and region.
- Killing and or removing invasive lake weeds should be a little more efficient when the lake bed is dry.If you do this with a chemical, you should still use one that is labeled for aquatic use. Use a systemic weed killer that kills the entire plant to help prevent future infestations.
- If you have had problems with excessive fertility , start making plans to plant a vegetative barrier at the inlet and anywhere else that large quantities of water flow in. Agricultural and horticultural nutrients have to go somewhere if they are washed from surrounding farm lands or lawns, and that somewhere is probably into your pond or lake unless something is there to absorb them.
From our readers responses, and the words and phrases you use to find our website, we can tell that the biggest problems for pond and lake owners are these:
- Lake weed control
- Pond scum control
- Skinny fish
Lake problems: The cause
It is interesting to note that all of these problems can be treated using the same measures, and even though they may seem vastly different, they have the same primary cause.
We want to say at the start that before you embark on what we are about to suggest, you should:
- Clear out the existing lake weed problems by mechanical or chemical means.
- Get rid of the pond scum by mechanical or chemical means.
- Check the pH of your pond or lake and adjust as needed it should be between 6.8 and 8.6.
- Do a secchi depth reading to be sure that this is the problem. Light should penetrate no deeper than 24 inches.
In most cases, the cause of skinny fish, mosquitoes, pond scum, and lake weeds is a lack of fertility. If the pond is not fertile, phytoplankton cannot grow, and phytoplankton is needed for:
- Shading the water to keep lake weeds and pond scum from getting the light that they need to initiate growth at the bottom.
- Preventing a perfect nesting area for mosquitoes, and eliminating the cover they use to avoid being eaten by fish.
- Initiating the cycle we know as the food chain, which culminates in well fed fish.
Lake problems: The solution
In order to provide proper fertility for your pond or lake, you should first follow through on all the suggestions mentioned above, and then do the following:
Add about 8 pounds of phosphorous fertilizer per acre to the pond either by broadcasting or in a bucket with holes submerged in the water. There are pre prepaired products of this type. That should be 8 pounds of the phosphorus itself, so, for instance, if the fertilizer you use is 50% phosphorus, you would need 16 pounds of the product per acre of water. this should be done as needed to keep the secchi depth between 18 and 24 inches during the summer months. See also: Lake Fertilization
- Get rid of the lake weeds
- Get rid of the pond scum
- Check pH and modify if needed
- Check the secchi depth
- Fertilze the lake