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How do I fix a leaking pond?

                                        


Joined: Nov 04, 2006
Posts: 2
I bought some property with a dry pond. We
had a good rain and it filled up  but two days later it was dry again. I had heard about using pigs to seal
the pond. Has anyone tried this and if so did it work? Any thoughts on this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
There's something about the shape of a pig's hoof that makes such a great pond seal.  Plus, with a little damp once in a while, pigs will really pack the clay!

Lots of farmers don't want to put pigs on pasture because the water will then run off of the pasture instead of getting soaked in.

Sepp Holzer (permaculture god) talks about pigs creating a seal, but he doesn't use them to seal his many ponds.  He uses a track hoe to jiggle the dirt and press it down.

I know that I had a lots of sandy soil with some clay.  The water didn't puddle much - until I put in pigs.  Then there were some small puddles that would hold water for weeks of sunshine!

I do know that I've read that this is something that farmers used to do, but I haven't heard of any specific success stories.

How big is the pond?

I think it would be good to throw a bunch of food on the ground around the pond in different places for the pigs over a period of six months or so.


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Joined: Nov 04, 2006
Posts: 2
The pond has a circumfrence of 40-50 foot its about 10 feet deep at center and the ground soil is lots of rock and red clay dirt. The pond Im guessing was dug 5- 10 years ago as there is one tree growing in the middle of it about 2 inches in outer diameter and a bunch of grass and small shrubs. Im guessing it may have never held water for more than a day or two.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
The tree is a problem.  Water will dig a path out along the roots.
John Meshna


Joined: Jul 22, 2006
Posts: 111
Location: Vermont
I've always found it really hard to get a sqeeling, wiggling pig into a small hole and harder still to make one stay there once inserted.
  Pond liners as simple as plastic sheeting or more expensive rubber liners work better.  A good layer of clay might work too.


John Meshna (owner)
Green State Hydroponics
1195 Dog Team Road
New Haven, Vt 05472
Marilyn Queiroz
steward

Joined: Apr 03, 2005
Posts: 60
paul wheaton wrote:
I think it would be good to throw a bunch of food on the ground around the pond in different places for the pigs over a period of six months or so. 


My impression is that pigs love to lie around in mud.

                                


Joined: Mar 07, 2006
Posts: 16
Ha ha ha!  I was thinking along the same lines as dirtworks!
Dave Boehnlein


Joined: Jun 10, 2007
Posts: 291
Location: Orcas Island, WA
    
    2
Whenever possible I would recommend avoiding pond liners for two reasons. 1. Pond liners all eventually leak and must be drained, diagnosed, and repaired. 2. Someday pond liners won't be available (neither will the repair goop) so we might want to get used to clay-lined ponds.

I like the pig idea too. The theory here relates not just to the pig's nifty hooves, but also the fact that those pigs will be crapping as well. This can become sort of an anaerobic soup called 'gley' that is then compressed by the pig's hooves. That is how pigs were used successfully (I believe in Scotland originally) to make ponds. Check out someone else with gley experience at http://resources.alibaba.com/topic/41782/How_to_create_a_pond_with_gley.htm.

An alternative would be to get a few yards of clay brought in and mush it around with some heavy equipment to smooth it out in a layer (maybe a bulldozer/compactor combo). You could even combo this with the pig method and see what happens.

Another option that may be a bit pricier, but seemingly effective is offered by a company called Seepage Control (http://www.seepagecontrol.com/). They have a soy-based liner product that can be applied while the pond is empty or after it is full. Check out their site for more details.

If all that fails, I'd say go for the liner. From the sound of it you're probably looking at around $1600 worth of EPDM. Having water in copious quantities is, in my opinion, a really, really good thing.

Anyway, that's my two cents. We put in a liner pond last year and will probably do it again this year (all we have to work with is glacial till and bedrock). I say the more the merrier!


Principal - Terra Phoenix Design
http://TerraPhoenixDesign.com
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I've seen this method spelled as "glie" - maybe that will help the googlers.

I heard that it was a popular russian technique.  Usually filling a pond bowl with cow manure or hay.  Sometimes several feet deep, then channeling in such a large volume of water that the organic matter must stay submerged (I would guess this would be through fall, winter and spring). 

I once saw a home where the septic drain field was buried five feet deep (instead of the recommended 18 inches).  The owner also had a drain field drain into a gully (illegal).  I suspect that what happened is a glie layer formed and the septic system backed up.  So the owner added the illegal drain. 

The (legal) depth of 18 inches facilitates aerobic breakdown.

....  as for squealing, wiggling pigs ...  pigs respect a single wire of electric fence ....  a lot ...

....  as for the pig manure .... mmmmmmmaybe.  When pigs are given enough space, they usually keep all of their manure in one spot. 

Dave,

Any chance of a glie project at bullock brothers farm?

              


Joined: May 12, 2007
Posts: 49
Location: Seattle
Here are some links that I gave to a friend here in Seattle. She went to a pottery supply house  to get her clay and she is very happy that it worked.
http://www.sturgismaterials.com/bentonite.htm
http://www.seminolemud.com/index.html

The tree is probably a big cotribution to your problem too. Try removing that first.

steve
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Dave?

While I spent several weeks hearing Sepp Holzer speak, probably five or six days was dedicated to ponds. 

Each pond is going to be different, but I would think the first step would be to compress the soil.

Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
clay, bitumus, and also if it isn't too large..clumping kitty litter..tee hee.


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Irene Kightley
pollinator

Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 340
Location: South West France
    
  15
It's worth using pigs if you've enough land around the pond to keep them healthy and happy and pigs are very easy to keep and eat almost anything.

We dug a pond for ours which at first was a mud bath which dried out quickly. We were lucky in that the earth in and around the pond had a lot of clay in it.



A few weeks later it was holding more and more water.



Now finally it seems to have stopped leaking.





La Ferme de Sourrou : Nos projets avec PHOTOS
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I've heard of folks sealing a pond by running pigs in it. 

I would like to find an example of a pond that did not hold water, and then pigs are run in it, and then the pond did hold water.  When you first dug the pond, did it hold water?
Irene Kightley
pollinator

Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 340
Location: South West France
    
  15
Nope !

It was a good puddle after heavy rain and the pigs quickly moved in for a wallow. The water drained away within a few days and this was repeated over a few months after each rainfall - aided by water from the adjoining roof which we now use for gardening or refilling the pond if it ever needs it. We haven't needed to use the roof water since last summer.

We've five parks we use for pigs and this pond was left to its own devices for about five months after the pigs had spent a summer wallowing in it.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
So .... just to make sure I'm not being silly I want to run this back by you as a rather direct question ....

So .... you dug a hole in the ground and when it would rain, there would be a puddle.  But the puddle would drain away within a few days.  And then you ran pigs in there.  Now, when it rains, the water appears to not drain away.    It would seem that running pigs in there has sealed the pond?




Irene Kightley
pollinator

Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 340
Location: South West France
    
  15
Exactly ! 
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I had never heard this 'pigs seal ponds' business before! that is cool!  this could be a great way to get some wetland type areas without much work!


[img]http://i109.photobucket.com/albums/n52/havlik1/permie%20pics2/permiepotrait3pdd.jpg[/img]

"One cannot help an involuntary process. The point is not to disturb it. - Dr. Michel Odent
Irene Kightley
pollinator

Joined: Apr 13, 2009
Posts: 340
Location: South West France
    
  15
Kids and consenting adults with wellies do a good job too if it's done regularly and there's a thick enough layer of clay !

In Scotland we call it "puddling" a pond and traditionally sheep were used to do the job - but pigs are faster because they're heavier and use their whole body to slide over the clay.

Once the pigs have gone, it doesn't take long before the plants, amphibians and insects take up home.

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
This is such fantastic news, I shared it at another forum where there were two more comments along the same lines:


My parents dug a pond, it leaked from the start, we tried several things when I still lived at home, but none worked. After I left home, they ran pigs in it, just fenced it in with electric fence. The pigs when in there a couple of years, the pond started holding the next spring, and has held to this day. Pigs have been gone four years now.

It is pretty common practice around here if a pond will not hold. I don't know if it not working.



Quite a few years ago we built a pond that did not seal. We fenced it in and ran hogs for three years at the suggestion of my Uncle. The third year one of the piglets drowned in the pond. We moved the hogs. That pond is still holding water. I know of several other ponds done the same way. As seagullplayer says, pretty common practice around here.




paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15218
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
The mighty .... the glorious .... the amazing ....  Sepp Holzer ...

Sharing with us the techniques for sealing a pond without the use of a pond liner.  Further, he has built hundreds of ponds without liners - some of them in very sandy soil, with no added clay!



Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    8
i'd try the pig, and remove the tree, dump some clay over the stump area when the tree is removed, and pack it down really well..

you might be able to bring in more clay as well..the pond is small enough that a couple of truckloads of clay spread out around the top and then trampled down well should seal it pretty good
Luke Townsley


Joined: Apr 17, 2010
Posts: 114
Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
    
    1
On page 131 of the Rebel Farmer, Sepp Holzer describes his system of vibrating the bottom of the pond as it is filling up to seal it "naturally."

With about a foot of water in the pond, he has an excavator with a narrow bucket to take as deep a bite as possible under the water (18-36" deep) and shake the soil much as you would shake up a jar of water and sediment so that the particles separate causing a layer of clay and fine particles to form at the bottom.

My understanding is that pigs and to a lesser extent, other livestock, actually do a similar function in muddy places.

It seems to me that the poor of money could do a similar thing with a long tile shovel like they used to use to lay down field drainage tiles.


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Jordan Lowery
volunteer

Joined: Sep 26, 2009
Posts: 1528
Location: zone 7
    
  11
have you considered bentonite clay?

http://www.sturgismaterials.com/bentonite.htm


The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings. - Masanobu Fukuoka
Emil Spoerri
pollinator

Joined: Oct 19, 2009
Posts: 415
    
    8
I have heard this story from a guy who ran a lawnmower repair. I had heard this before, but did not provoke him to talk about it, we were just talking about goats and animals and eventually the conversation turned to pigs. He said that the pigs also actually ate out the willow roots that were coming into their pond and they cut down the willows and then yes the unsealed pond became sealed.
Joel Hollingsworth
volunteer

Joined: Jul 01, 2009
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
It should also be noted that, if trucking in clay wouldn't be economical, but there is some clay component to the local soil, Sepp recommends wet agitation followed by skimming to remove coarse materials that have risen to the top, and addition of more local soil.

That is to say, it's a tradeoff between finding a local pure source, and refining the material in place. If you have a local use for the sand/gravel, that might also figure in.


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rose macaskie


Joined: May 09, 2009
Posts: 2134
  Looking up permaculture on you tube  i  found a video of a man getting his two children to do what the  pigs are doing here, i did not then understand what he was up to.
  Though there seems to be more information glei in some ways and in others less on this thread here, still i think chelle should be credited with beiing the first to inform on gley.
  I looked up farm ponds or some such in google and found an article that mentioned that in medieval farms there was a pond in each feild. rose
Chelle Lewis


Joined: Dec 10, 2009
Posts: 417
Location: Hartbeespoort, South Africa
    
    1
paul wheaton wrote:
I've seen this method spelled as "glie" - maybe that will help the googlers.

I heard that it was a popular russian technique.  Usually filling a pond bowl with cow manure or hay.   Sometimes several feet deep, then channeling in such a large volume of water that the organic matter must stay submerged (I would guess this would be through fall, winter and spring). 

Rather google "gley". This is the English word for glei - the original Russian word.
Greg Sudderth


Joined: Aug 14, 2010
Posts: 2
I would literally throw in a single bag of bentonite, into the deepest part of the pond (by memory).  It'll expand (hilariously) and get sucked into the leak.

Trees around ponds = baddddd.  Permanent leaks.

G.
Travis Philp
volunteer

Joined: Dec 28, 2009
Posts: 951
Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
    
    8
paul wheaton wrote:
....  as for squealing, wiggling pigs ...   pigs respect a single wire of electric fence ....  a lot ...


Be careful with single wire fencing for pigs. One of our vietnamese potbelly pigs ran right through the electric fence we set up as if it wasn't even electrified. She's a bit of a tornado among pigs though.

Also, a nearby farmer lost all his pigs because the charge turned off, the oinkers figured it out and made a break for the forest. Luckily they came back several days later.


http://www.greenshireecofarms.com
Zone 5a in Central Ontario, Canada
Jan Sebastian Dunkelheit


Joined: Aug 08, 2010
Posts: 201
Location: Germany/Cologne - Finland/Savonlinna
I heard Sepp Holzer in Paul's Video (part 3 - sealing ponds) saying that the special ingridient to make a pond water proof is water itself. And, Sepp Holzer says, the soil has to be loosend many meters deep. The translator made a poor job at this one. Sepp's explanation is completly logical to me. Everyone who made a soil test in a bottle of water knows, that when the soil is wet the sand and stones fall down first because they are the heaviest materials in soil. The clay is light weight and takes a long time to sink. In the end the pond with Holzer's method is sealt by "pure" clay.


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Mike Turner


Joined: Sep 23, 2009
Posts: 154
Location: Upstate SC
    
    1
dirtworks wrote:
I've always found it really hard to get a sqeeling, wiggling pig into a small hole and harder still to make one stay there once inserted.
  Pond liners as simple as plastic sheeting or more expensive rubber liners work better.  A good layer of clay might work too.


Scatter a bunch of loose corn into the hole and you'll have no problem getting the pig into the hollow and keeping him busy once he is there.  He'll pack down the bottom while searching out every last kernel of corn.
Luke Townsley


Joined: Apr 17, 2010
Posts: 114
Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
    
    1
I know this sounds really outlandish, but... Holzer's pond sealing method seems to primarily involve stirring up the pond bottom to a depth of about two to three feet and then letting it settle out so the heavy particles fall first and then a layer of clay is left on top.

However, it seems that Holzer had a major advantage that most people don't have in that he could pull water from a pond higher up and fill the pond at will so there would be just enough water to do his work.

OK, so...  How about instead of using an excavator to stir up the pond bottom, we take a pond that is already full or mostly so and drill a light explosive into the bottom every foot or so to a depth of about three feet detonating them simultaneously, nearly simultaneously, or in series? Of course, it would probably kill just about everything in the pond, but it would stir up the bottom. It obviously wouldn't pack and smooth the bottom of the pond as one might hope, but is there a reasonable chance it would still work in most soils?

I don't happen to be an explosives expert either, so someone else will have to comment on that part. It does seem like each charge would have to have its own detonator or at least be linked in some way though.
                          


Joined: Aug 05, 2010
Posts: 7
Well I am just now buying some property that has a pond (it is about  20 by 30 feet and oval) and I want to ensure that it keeps on holding water.

The pond has 30 or 40 ft tall trees all along the banks of the pond's dam edge most of the bigger trees are at least 10 to 15 ft or more away from the top edge but there are a lot of taller woody shrubs starting to grow on the top lip of the dam.


Another interesting "feature" is that all along and parallel to tall lip of the ponds dam (about 25 to 30 feet away from the lip) is a wet weather creek that is eroded to about three to four feet deep and at least that far across.

There are numerous larger tree falls across and in the stream that are partially damming the stream in about three spots. I am thinking I want to clear out the damns to ensure the steam can flow and not flood the down bank area (but I don't want to increase erosion
there so I am concerned that maybe the dams are serving a good purpose and ought not to be removed?   

So while the pound looks to be holding water just fine now and has a good stock of fish best as I can tell I am worried that all may not be in the best shape long term?

So for the questions...

Is it very important to keep all woody plants off the upper lip? Or just the large stuff?

Would you clear all dams in the stream? How much concern about continued erosion?

BTW Soil looks to be about an even mix of sand and clay, and with plentiful rock.

The pond looks like it has about 0.5 to 0.75 meters free-board till the thing overflows around it's own outer edge and on down to the creek running across the pond base (during a storm.)

Some might say why mess with something that ain't broke? But I want to do the necessary maintenance to keep everything working if that is what is called for.

Also with that downward slope side with the stream my prime food forest fruit and nut tree area is in question.

I wanted to slowly cut down the tall trees there and get my fruit and nut trees planted there but with that creek there I am not sure they would not get too water logged.

Dang this stuff is so much more complicated than those wonderful Geoff Lawton videos.
:O )


Thanks in advance for any ideas...

Steve
Walter Jeffries


Joined: Nov 21, 2010
Posts: 907
    
  18
Yes, pigs are great for packing ponds. I've done this with four ponds. It is important to have some clay in the soil - that is it should have the right soil to start with.

Leaking is one problem. All soils leak a little.

Another is evaporation. A pond must have sufficient incoming water to cover both the loss from leaking and from evaporation. If you have a leak problem the water goes down evenly. If it is an evaporation problem then the water goes down in steps with the sunshine and you'll see erosion scallops in the mud on the side of the pond. A handy observation I have noted in our ponds.

You should have enough incoming water to cover leaking, evaporation and then you also want some outflow to exchange the water in the pond.

Aeration is important if you want to keep fish. Temperature too.

I love having lots of small ponds which provide micro-climates and sources of water for our livestock. The lower ponds are pig ponds and beyond them artificial marshes.

Cheers

-Walter
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
Mike Turner


Joined: Sep 23, 2009
Posts: 154
Location: Upstate SC
    
    1
I planted Hibanobambusa (a 12 ft high running bamboo) on my dam.  Its dense rhizome network helps to anchor and stabilize the dam, making it more difficult for muskrats to burrow into the dam, it shades out the tree seedlings that I would overwise have to keep cleared off the dam, and the bamboo leaves provide winter browse for my sheep after they have eaten the pasture grasses down in late winter.  If I need to do some maintenance on the dam its easy enough to clear cut  the bamboo from the area of the dam I need to work on.
                                


Joined: Dec 27, 2010
Posts: 15
Location: Inland North Atlantic
Fill the bottom of the dried out pond with leaves. They form into a lamentation then break down into a sludgy humus, for lack of a better description. Cheap, easy.


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Joined: Mar 21, 2011
Posts: 2
Fill the bottom of the dried out pond with leaves. They form into a lamentation then break down into a sludgy humus, for lack of a better description. Cheap, easy.


Interesting idea!

1)  Do you put dried leaves or fresh ones?
2)  How thick of a layer do you put?
3)  Would it help to put any other type of carbon based material as well?
4)  How about also putting some type of Nitrogen based stuff to help with the break down?


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Benjamin Burchall


Joined: Sep 11, 2011
Posts: 181
Location: Atlanta, GA
So am I understanding correctly that Holzer's pond sealing method is basically to compact the soil that will serve as the bottom of the pond. If that's correct, I imagine a low tech no-pig way to do this would be to take a sledgehammer to the soil. Perhaps lay a small metal plate on the soil and hammer away on top of it? I could see this working on clay soils well.

I've seen work crews working with soil compactors to prepare the ground for building a road or sidewalk before. They look like jackhammers with a metal plate instead of a spike. I suppose you could rent one, right?
David Miller


Joined: Sep 13, 2011
Posts: 239
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
Benjamin Burchall wrote:So am I understanding correctly that Holzer's pond sealing method is basically to compact the soil that will serve as the bottom of the pond. If that's correct, I imagine a low tech no-pig way to do this would be to take a sledgehammer to the soil. Perhaps lay a small metal plate on the soil and hammer away on top of it? I could see this working on clay soils well.

I've seen work crews working with soil compactors to prepare the ground for building a road or sidewalk before. They look like jackhammers with a metal plate instead of a spike. I suppose you could rent one, right?


I don't think that Holzer's technique as he described it could be summarized as a simple COMPACTION. If you re-watch his description you'll notice that he illustrates the compaction as a shaking instead, using the bucket of the excavator to pound the soil "lightly" so as to allow the clay to sort itself to a single stratified hydrophobic layer.
 
 
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