Only recently have formal programs been instituted in communities to mitigate runoff pollution with methods like stormwater ponds.
In general, concern over pollution in the country’s waters began in earnest in 1972 with the Clean Water Act.
One of the programs created by this law was the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program, which addresses water pollution by regulating the discharge of polluted stormwater into public waterways.
The purpose of this permitting system is to limit, manage and monitor discharge into public water to ensure that water quality (and people’s health) is not affected by contaminants brought in from stormwater runoff.
One of the tools in such efforts includes stormwater ponds.
In this blog, we’ll talk about the top things you should know about these ponds in your community, and how they may affect you as a property owner.
Let’s get started.
1. What is a stormwater pond?
A stormwater pond, also called a retention basin, wet pond, or wet detention basin, is an artificial pond with vegetation around the perimeter.
It includes a permanent pool of water in its design, and is used to manage stormwater runoff to prevent flooding, downstream erosion, and improve the water quality in adjacent water bodies (stream, lake, river, etc.).
2. What is the purpose of a stormwater pond?
Stormwater ponds are designed to be catch basins for developed areas.
They collect rainwater (stormwater runoff) that typically runs over impermeable surfaces, like parking lots, roads, buildings, etc, and into the pond.
In undeveloped areas, rainwater is absorbed into the soil, taken up by trees or plants, and flows into rivers, streams, or wetlands naturally.
In developed areas, the rainwater gets polluted by dirt, oil, fertilizers, yard waste, and litter because it collects on impervious surfaces.
These pollutants can be harmful to habitats and wildlife downstream if they remain in the ecosystem.
The solution is to have stormwater management ponds in place to collect sediments and pollutants.
This allows the water to be cleansed from these pollutants before being released back into the watershed.
3. Where are stormwater ponds located?
Stormwater ponds are often located in common areas or on public land.
As a result, they often attract wildlife.
Unfortunately, due to the sediment and pollutants they collect, they are also potentially harmful to local wildlife if they’re not properly managed.
To avoid harming wildlife, stormwater ponds may need to be cleaned out periodically over time.
This is often an expensive and intensive process.
However, preventative actions can also be taken on behalf of community members to minimize the contamination of stormwater ponds.
Read below to see what you can do as an environmental steward.
4. What can I do to help keep stormwater ponds clean?
Keeping stormwater ponds clean is essential for community wildlife.
Here are ways that you can do your part.
Keep litter, yard waste, and pet waste out of drainage ditches and storm drains, so they don’t pollute stormwater ponds through runoff.
Use and dispose of pesticides and fertilizers properly. Fertilizers should never be broadcast over streets or sidewalks and only applied at the label rate.
Properly dispose of oil and antifreeze.
Never hose chemicals off impermeable surfaces.
Reduce erosion of your property by planting plants and grasses in overexposed areas.
Allow natural plants to grow up around any stormwater management ponds on your property to help filter runoff water.
Perform a stormwater inspection annually.
5. What are the different types of stormwater ponds?
When you’re reading about stormwater ponds, you’ll hear about them in a few different contexts.
In this article, we’re primarily talking about wet stormwater ponds or retention basins.
However, dry ponds or detention basins are also in the same “family.”
We’ll explain the differences below.
A dry stormwater pond is dry most of the time and may have playing fields in it.
However, when there is heavy rain, the dry stormwater pond can fill with water quickly.
The idea behind this is to prevent a stormwater system from becoming overwhelmed and having the water backing up into basements or flooding into houses or businesses.
This type of stormwater pond is prevalent in the desert because those areas are prone to flash flooding.
While they may not get rain often,; however, when they do, it creates dangerous flooding conditions since much of the ground is impermeable.
There is nowhere for the rainwater to go, and thus the streets are often overflowing within minutes.
Having dry stormwater ponds available as overflow locations prevent long-term flooding issues.
Often, dry stormwater ponds will have built-in ultrasonic sensors.
These sensors record water depths and inform us when the ponds are filling with water.
After the rain event, dry ponds can take up to 24 hours to drain.
Unlike dry ponds that only fill under certain conditions, wet ponds hold water all of the time.
These ponds are designed to capture and hold stormwater for longer periods of time.
They slow down water, which helps settle out some of the sediments and allows some pollutants to be removed or degraded by natural environmental processes.
Ultimately, this helps return cleaner water to our rivers, creeks, and streams.
The typical water depths of these ponds are around three meters, and after storms, you’ll see the water level rise rapidly.
These wet stormwater ponds are the ones we’re primarily discussing in this article.
6. What are the benefits of stormwater ponds?
Both wet and dry stormwater ponds include the following benefits:
Helping protect homes and businesses from possible localized flooding after a storm
Slowing down the flow of stormwater during short but intense rainfalls to reduce the erosion of river and creek banks
Cleaning stormwater by allowing time for sediment to settle to the bottom of the pond and for pollutants to be removed or degraded by natural environmental processes, which protects the health of rivers, creeks, and streams
Providing valuable green spaces for the community to enjoy (although not for recreational uses)
Offering habitats for animals, organisms, and insects (as long as they are clean enough to be healthy)
Conserving water that is stored in retention ponds for uses like irrigation
Increasing biodiversity in any given area
7. What should I know about stormwater pond safety?
Stormwater ponds serve an important role in the community.
They protect it from flooding and clean stormwater.
However, due to the rapidly changing water levels and poor water quality, stormwater ponds should not be used for recreational purposes.
Here’s what you should know about basic stormwater safety.
Do not place garbage or pet waste in stormwater ponds.
They should be placed in designated bins and taken to a nearby landfill.
Keep all pets away from stormwater ponds for their health and safety.
No recreational activities.
Do not engage in any type of recreational activity in or on the stormwater pond.
This includes skating on ice in the winter, fishing, swimming, or boating.
8. What are some common misconceptions associated with stormwater ponds?
MYTH: Cattails and other vegetations make ponds unattractive and can contribute to their deterioration.
REALITY: This type of vegetation actually helps to stabilize shorelines, reduce nutrient loads, and provide important wildlife habitats.
MYTH: Dumping trash, used oil, and other pollution down storm drains is fine because it will go to a water treatment plant.
REALITY: Most storm drains empty into your neighborhood stream or pond, which means you’re just polluting local water sources.
MYTH: Healthy ponds host large populations of ducks and geese.
REALITY: Ponds with high populations of waterfowl typically have high levels of pollution from their waste.
MYTH: Stormwater ponds are eyesores that require constant maintenance.
REALITY: While they do require consistent maintenance, stormwater ponds are necessary, designed to clean stormwater, and decrease costly downstream flooding and stream bank erosion.
MYTH: Stormwater ponds are breeding grounds for disease-causing mosquitos.
REALITY: Mosquitos breed in pools of stagnant water. If your stormwater pond is designed correctly, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about!
9. What are solutions to common stormwater pond problems?
Sometimes Canadian geese prefer to enter and exit the water where there is limited vegetation for their predators to hide.
This is a result of mowing vegetation up to the edge of the water, which makes it a desirable habitat for these geese.
Feeding of waterfowl can also cause them to remain.
To prevent these nuisance waterfowl, don’t mow grass to the edge of the pond and allow natural vegetation to grow 3-5 feet from the edge of the pond.
This allows a natural buffer.
You should also avoid feeding waterfowl.
These result from fertilizers, grass clippings, and pet waste that contain nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous that increase algae growth.
Shallow water warmed by the sun can also lead to algae growth.
To resolve this, reduce or eliminate the use of fertilizer products on lawns near the stormwater pond.
The use of barley straw can also reduce algae growth.
If possible, reduce, prevent, and eliminate both grass cuttings and waterfowl from entering the water.
Erosion and siltation
This is the action of water falling on or running over bare soil and displacing sediment.
Pollution and erosion are the results.
To prevent this, avoid destroying natural vegetation (shrubs and grasses) near the water, and reduce areas with steep slopes around stormwater ponds.
You can also seed and mulch any exposed areas.
Muskrats and other rodents inhabit banks and disturb plant materials.
This may cause banks to erode or impair the function of ponds.
Beavers can also cause flooding issues.
To help resolve these issues, monitor the pond for evidence of destructive wildlife and place stones several feet above and below the waterline to prevent burrowing.
Non-native invasive aquatic species
Non-native invasive aquatic species (ex: zebra mussels) can sometimes be introduced to the pond by humans and mitigating waterfowl.
These can cause environmental and economic harm by altering habitats for plants and animals and clogging water intake and discharge pipes.
Be careful to never dump water, plants, fish, or other animals into a body of water unless they come out of that body of water.
Dumping chemicals such as oil, plaint, gas, and little onto plants or into storm drains that empty into the pond can contribute to human pollution in stormwater ponds.
Prevent this by properly disposing of any chemicals and litter and washing vehicles on lawns instead of driveways to prevent soap from entering waterways.
Above all, do not dump anything into storm drains.
10. What liability does an HOA have for a stormwater pond?
Did you know that stormwater ponds are considered one of an HOA’s greatest liabilities and expenses?
Seeing as you’ve probably never looked at one and thought twice about it.
Like swimming pools, stormwater ponds pose a constant drowning risk for residents and also require continuous maintenance and planning.
They have a high initial cost of installation, monthly maintenance, and then the periodic removal of pollution and sediment buildup.
As such, it’s recommended that HOAs set aside as much as 12 percent of their yearly budget to maintain small retention ponds and up to 35 percent for larger ponds.
Expensive is an understatement!
11. What type of maintenance does a stormwater pond have?
If there’s one thing you should take from this article is that a stormwater pond must be maintained.
It cannot function well without maintenance and can actually harm the community and wildlife without maintenance.
Therefore, if the local government does not own it, someone else does and must take on the responsibility of maintnance.
For example, a stormwater pond could belong to the local homeowner’s association (HOA).
If that’s the case, then it would be the HOA’s responsibility to keep the pond in working order, and they would pay for any maintenance expenses.
If you’re in charge of maintenance, you should expect regular inspections (especially after severe storms or heavy rain) to identify and repair areas of erosion, gullies, and other damage.
You’ll probably need to remove sediment, debris, and other pollutants periodically as well to prevent them from reaching the outlets.
Finally, in order to make it a true asset to the community, beautify it with surrounding banks of grass, shrubs, and vegetation.
If it’s going to be in your community, you might as well make it pretty to look at!
12. What should I know about buying a home near a stormwater pond?
There are both advantages and disadvantages to living near a stormwater pond.
For one, you’ll have peace and quiet, more green space, and fewer neighbors nearby.
You’ll also have a reduced risk of your home flooding, especially if you live in a flood zone.
However, stormwater ponds do come with risks.
For example, if you have young children, you’ll have to keep the danger of drowning in mind.
Furthermore, while the stormwater pond helps prevent flooding in your area, if you were to ever have major storm events or unprecedented amount of water enter the stormwater pond, then your house would be at the highest flooding risk.
Additionally, stormwater basins impact property values based on how well they are maintained and how well they function.
As a potential buyer, you should be aware of who owns the pond and how well they maintain it.
This will ultimately help you make an informed decision about whether to purchase a property.
13. Will a stormwater pond in my community become a breeding ground for mosquitos?
Stormwater ponds may seem like the ideal breeding ground for mosquitos, but this isn’t often the case.
These ponds often become sites for wildlife like fish, frogs, dragonflies, etc., which just so happen to be predators for both mosquito adults and larvae.
As a result, female mosquitos often find safer places to lay their eggs than stormwater ponds.
The top mosquito breeding sites include sagging and clogged gutters.
If you’re experiencing issues with mosquitos near your home or in your community, check your gutters and any downspout extensions first.
Because mosquitos are not able to fly very far, they like gutters because they are able to attack as soon as you walk out the door.
There you have it!
Everything you need to know about that stormwater pond near your house.
Have any questions?
Let us know in the comments.
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.
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