Living On Your Own Water

Beach area and rock formation shoreline patio
Provided by The Bruce Company

The upper Midwest is known for beautiful lakes and the recreation that goes with them. We look forward to summer outings and activities on a lake or in an area with lake access, but there’s less and less available lakefront property. What if you could build a body of water on your own property? The cost is less than installing a pool, and the size can be much greater per dollar invested. Private ponds offer more versatility than a pool, and they offer additional leisure options to swimming, such as canoeing, fishing, and wildlife viewing.

To sort out water-feature questions, Shane Wagner, manager of aquatic services for The Bruce Company, shares his expertise. “There’s more to it than excavating a large hole and filling it with water. There are a few steps trained professionals take to ensure your pond has clean, high-quality water and requires far less work than needed to keep a swimming pool clean and enjoyable.” Hiring an aquatic-landscaping expert knowledgeable in synthetic lining installation will ensure this goal.

Like any landscape project, there are many customizable options that determine cost. A basic, one-third-acre pond will cost $30,000 to $40,000 depending on the options chosen. Shane recommends placing the pond as close as possible to your house. “When our Bruce Company experts walk through the different design elements of a desired installation, we typically recommend placing the pond near the homeowners house for more frequent access, enjoyment, and a better viewing experience.”

The best way to start the planning process is to determine permit regulations in your area. Then schedule a site inspection with your selected expert to determine size, placement/orientation, shape, drainage, etc. Ask for an estimate on an entry level design, then ask about upgrades. As an example, The Bruce Company will provide a drawn-to-scale plan and create a virtual video of your ideal design. “An added benefit advanced technology allows is to create a digital walkthrough of the desired project, giving the homeowner a true feel of the space before any digging begins,” Shane says. And be sure to ask about the best methods for ongoing maintenance so you can enjoy years of living on your own water.

These are some things to keep in mind when creating your own body of water.

Timeframe. It doesn’t take as much time as you might think, with the average time being 45 days. The thing that takes the most time is filling your water feature with water.

Permits. It’s best to have your expert help with the process because permit requirements vary. Most projects need an Erosion Control Permit and Storm Water Erosion Control Permit. And if you’re building your pond within 500 feet of navigable water, you’ll need an additional permit.

Pond Depth/Water Quality. Better water quality will be achieved with a deeper pond, with the minimum recommended depth being nine feet. Steeper slopes leading to the deep water are important—a three-to-one slope ratio is recommended. This means that for every three feet of walkout, the pond gets one foot deeper. Shallower slope ratios will be used for beach and fish/wildlife areas.

Limit Runoff. Keeping natural runoff at a minimum will lessen the amount of organic sediment and nutrients entering your pond. High levels of sediment cause poorer water quality and create more work to keep it clean. Creating swales around the pond to divert runoff is the solution. This means your pond will only be filled with rain and well water.

Aquatic Plants. Planting aquatic plants both submerged and around the pond edge is highly recommended. They not only use up nutrients that would otherwise encourage algae growth, but also enhance the fish and wildlife habitat. Aquatic plants are perennials, so once you plant them, they’ll come back year after year.

Aeration Systems. Installing a diffused aeration system is important for water quality and the health of fish in the pond. The water must be kept oxygenated in order to sustain important microorganisms, such as bacteria.

Overflows. You must incorporate an overflow in your pond design so heavy rains (or forgetting to turn off at the water fill source) will not produce flooding and a maximum water level can be sustained.

Regular Maintenance. Adding bacteria to your pond every two weeks from May through September is vital to keep it functioning and looking beautiful. Occasional filamentous algae treatments and submerged aquatic weed treatments may also be necessary to control growth of unwanted plants. These treatments are safe for pond organisms, wildlife, and people.

The Bruce Company
2830 Parmenter Street
Middleton, WI 53562