What if I told you that there is a large piece of pie available in the pond and lake management industry? Would you believe that there are opportunities everywhere in the country for you to expand your business model?
It’s true. Allow me to explain.
Farmland continues to be sold to municipalities and private individuals throughout the United States. This land often contains one or more small earth-bottom ponds that were traditionally used for other purposes, such as irrigation of crops or drinking water for livestock. When these ponds were owned and operated by the farming family, the family likely performed their own management of the aquatic resources. In many instances, the purpose of these ponds was simply to provide water with little thought to their aesthetic value or potential recreational use.
But guess what happens when a housing community is built around such a pond? The purpose of the pond’s existence suddenly changes from one of necessity to one of luxury. Then the pond must be managed differently, as the new owners of this aquatic resource demand a cleaner, healthier pond for everyday enjoyment.
This little pond was doing fine as a watering hole and drought-busting irrigation source for vegetable crops. But the many years of managing for these purposes may have taken a toll on its underlying ecosystem health. Eutrophication has been accelerated by nutrient-rich runoff from grazing animals in the surrounding fields. Anaerobic conditions have built up on the pond bottom due to the ever-increasing organic muck layer. Fish are suffering from lower dissolved oxygen levels, and high phosphorus levels are feeding some nasty algae blooms.
Here’s where you come in. There’s a simple solution that can help every single one of the above problems. It is not a cure-all, keep in mind, but it is a great first step in just about every circumstance.
Diffused Aeration Systems
A diffused aeration system is comprised of a quiet air compressor and one or more air diffusers with lengths of weighted tubing connecting them to the compressor. Naturally, the air compressor is placed on the shore, while the weighted tubing is placed in the water leading out to the diffuser or diffusers.
When properly sized and installed, a diffused aeration system will assist in many environmental functions, including reversing the effects of eutrophication, eliminating anaerobic conditions (which increases beneficial bacterial activity), creating high dissolved oxygen levels within the entire body of water (which increases fish habitat) and reducing usable phosphorus levels within the water column.
Stick to the Plan
Diffused aeration systems are generally not difficult to install given the proper equipment. In addition to basic dirt-moving tools you already have in your arsenal, all you need to get started is a small jon boat, a trolling motor with a battery and some poly rope.
A properly-sized aeration system is crucial to successful management of the pond. Always check pond depths and surface area and provide this data to an aeration manufacturer or distributor that is capable of producing an aeration system design. This design will contain all the necessary calculations, such as turnovers per day, compressor size, number of diffusers and an aerial photo mapping the locations of each diffuser for maximum effectiveness. Don’t just buy a stock aeration system off the shelf and assume it will be sufficient. An undersized system will do little or no good for a pond in need. An oversized system will work, but it will cost considerably more in both upfront costs and long-term electrical usage.
When you are ready to install your first system, call on the manufacturer or an experienced colleague to walk you through the installation. Again, it is not difficult, but some simple tips will help avoid some aggravation. (For instance, you have to coil the tubing in your boat in the proper direction for easy deployment. Trust me on this!)
What Not to Say
You now know the basics of aeration systems and what they can do. Just as important, however, is to understand what they don’t do. This is important, because there are a lot of misconceptions and misinformation regarding aeration systems.
“It’s a filter.” Many times I hear both consumers and contractors tell me that they think an aeration system filters the pond water. This is technically not true, and you should never refer to these systems as filters. The air bubbles produced by the diffuser float to the surface, which pushes water upward through the water column. This causes a cycling or circulation effect that brings oxygen-rich surface water down to the bottom, which is the catalyst for all kinds of beneficial effects. But “filtering” is not one of them.
“It prevents algae.” Phosphorus combines with iron in the presence of oxygen. Iron is present in practically every water body. If you tie up the extra phosphorus, there will be less phosphorus available for algae to utilize and flourish. While this is true, there are always several factors at play when talking about algae. The presence of rooted aquatic vegetation is a strong influencer in algae growth, as is available sunlight in the depths of the pond, which is also influenced by water clarity. An aeration system helps to discourage excessive algae growth in the right conditions, but that is all. Never set a false expectation with your customer by suggesting they won’t have algae after installing an aeration system.
“It makes the water crystal clear.” Actually, in the beginning, you may notice reduced clarity when bottom sediments are disturbed and pushed upward into the water column. An aerated pond is going to be teeming with life, both microscopic and macroscopic. Certain times of the season will see increased levels of various microorganisms such as phytoplankton and zooplankton. Runoff and feeder streams will undoubtedly bring sediment particles into the pond at various times of the year, which can cloud the water for quite some time. There is a longstanding misconception that aeration systems will make a pond become crystal clear and stay that way permanently. You must always remember that earth-bottom ponds are a constantly evolving and living system. Never guarantee clear water in these systems.
“It’s a quick fix.” Aeration systems are a tremendous proactive method for promoting overall ecosystem health. Just don’t expect instant results. This is more of a long-term and somewhat passive approach to pond management. It sets the stage for increased effectiveness of other management activities and fosters a more suitable environment for fish and other aquatic life, including beneficial bacteria. Think of it this way: Many ponds have been accumulating muck and experiencing eutrophication for decades. Any attempts to rectify this situation (short of dredging) are going to take time. You should preach patience with your customer.
Simply put, be careful not to oversell or overhype the aeration concept. Setting expectations is critical to avoid having a dissatisfied customer. You can promote all the great benefits of aeration in a way that makes the customer feel comfortable and happy to know that they are doing a good thing for the entire pond’s ecosystem. It truly is one of the best management tools you can use for just about any pond to promote a strong and balanced ecosystem.