Retention Pond Design for Beautification and Pollution Control

Published on March 2, 2008


In our work at the nursery with helping individuals and communities improve the function and appearance of their storm water retention ponds, we have developed a 5 Step Program that seems to work very well. We call this program “The New American Pond.” Most retention ponds accumulate nutrients from runoff whether it be storm water or agricultural. These ponds are typically earth bottom and not usually more than 8-10 feet deep. They deteriorate quickly into polluted, cattail infested, eyesores. The neighborhood gets agitated with the situation, but usually cannot find a long-term remedy other than to pretend the problem doesn’t exist.

There are two principal problems. The ponds endlessly accumulate pollution, as there is no mechanism to remove pollution permanently. Only biomass or sediment removal will do this. The other problem is weed control in these ponds as they are typically shallow around their perimeter. This encourages weeds.

The first step in our program is to create a mechanism for biomass removal. For this we use Floating Wetland ™ rafts to grow aquatic plants on the surface of the pond. The rafts are easily pulled to shore for biomass harvesting. This harvesting removes the nutrients contained in the biomass from the pond. If the plant material stays in the pond, it will only recycle back into the water at the end of its growing season as nutrient.

Second, we do is to add bottom diffuser aeration. This step is vitally important to nutrient removal. The aeration increases oxygenation at the bottom of the pond speeding up the decomposition of organic sediment and releasing CO2 and nitrates to the circulating pond water. These nutrients pass by the plant roots of the Floating Wetland plants creating a hydroponics effect (i.e., increased nutrient uptake). Our studies indicate that this hydroponics effect increases nutrient uptake by over 400%. We’ve also estimated that a 4% plants’ coverage may consume up to 20% of the sedimentary pollution in the pond over the growing season. A final benefit is that increased bottom aeration retards the release of iron and phosphorous from the bottom sediments, both are powerful stimulants to algae growth. We call the use of bottom aeration in combination with Floating Wetlands, the “Synergy System” ™, because of its multiplier effect on improving pond water quality.

The third step is to remove weeds from the pond’s border, if necessary, replanting the moist border with grasses and wildflowers. We use a seed mix and or plugs to do this. Once established, the grassy-wildflower border will prevent cattail and other weed seeds from taking root. We believe that cattail seedlings get their start in the moist border and not the water itself. We will also install Wetland Carpets™ where the shoreline is eroded. It is best to use non-invasive, clumping type aquatic plants in the shallows. Restrict the use of invasive plants to the floating wetlands where they can’t escape to the shoreline and where they’re do the most good for nutrient uptake.

Fourth, having taken care of the pollution problem and the cattails (or weed) problem, we plant non-invasive hybrid water lilies to add color and tranquil beauty to the pond’s shallows. We plant the lilies in distinct island groupings in order to preserve a goodly portion of the reflective surface around the pond’s perimeter.

Our final and 5th step is to plant moisture loving specimen perennials, bushes and trees to create a lush, vertical background to frame the pond and to reflect in the pond’s surface. Goats Beard, Joe Pye, Button Bush and Bald Cypress are some of our favorites.

We received this letter from a formerly agitated resident who lived on the shoreline of a pond we improved with our 5 Step Program:

“I’ve spent many evenings sitting by the pond with neighbors (one always comes with glasses of wine), reading a book or watching the birds and communing with the frogs (we’ve become very attached – and there must be a prince in there somewhere). What a difference in the quality of life for the neighborhood. Instead of avoiding a stinky hole, neighbors bring visitors to the ponds to show them off.” – Sherald Reagle, Easton East

“The Hibiscus are blooming like crazy in the rafts so there is plenty of color there. I am going to go out this evening and take some pictures. They are beautiful. Everything is doing well at the sales pond. Janet’s Way pond is just stunning, if I do say so myself. I’ve decided to add my own little park right on the edge of my property so I can look out at the rafts in all their glory.” – Sherald Reagle, Easton East

To learn more about

“The New American Pond” program, contact:

Maryland Aquatic Nurseries – Toll Free: 877-736-1807


Charleston Aquatic Nursery – Toll Free: 800-566-3264

Kloubec Koi Farm

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