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What to Know About Large Pond and Lake Construction?

If you own land that has significant acreage, you may have thought it would be nice to have a large pond or small lake on the property.  You would be right.  If you think it is as easy as digging a big hole and waiting for the rain to fill it up, you would be wrong!


One of the first places to start is with any and all laws and regulations from the local, provincial, and federal sources.  If you are planning to divert water from an existing source like a river or stream, you will need to determine if you own those water rights or can have access to them.

There will undoubtedly be paperwork, lots of paperwork.  Be prepared to explain in detail why you want the pond or lake including its main purpose and any ancillary uses.  For instance, you may want to build it for aesthetic reasons and to attract wildlife and pollinators, but you also expect it to become a swimming hole for your family.

Find out your rights as well as responsibilities.  This will probably require a chat with your insurance agent.  You will specifically want to talk about your liabilities if the pond or lake breaks its dam or barriers and causes damage.  Try to view the broadest picture possible, including loss or damage from trespassers.


After you have decided where you want the pond or lake, you will need to have a soil test performed.  In order for the basin to retain water it will need a base of at least 20% clay.   If there is not enough clay in your soil content, you will need to either purchase heavy clay and spread it throughout the hole, including the sides, or install a rubber liner, which can really impact your budget.

It is very likely you will need to hire an engineer.  This individual will be able to help you estimate the cost of removing any existing trees, shrubs, or other vegetation; moving the soil; and excavation.  He or she can also consult on drain pipes, spillways, aeration and filtration, and damming.


There are a number of viable sources for your water and to be practical, you may need more than one to keep your pond or lake full year round or to survive in drought years.

  • Runoff – This is simply capturing the rain or snow melt off.
  • Groundwater – Check the water table of the land to see if groundwater is available.
  • Springs – These are naturally occurring seepages from runoff and groundwater.
  • Streams – You may or may not have the legal right to divert this water.
  • Wells – It is possible to pump well water into the pond, but it can become expensive because of the utility expense.

If you are serious about having a large pond or small lake for your property, it is probably best to hire a professional.  Of course, check all references and be sure they are insured.  In the long run, they have the expertise and experience to do the job right the first time.




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