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|Many ponds are built to provide recreational activities and aesthetic benefits. Chronically muddy water makes a pond very unattractive and most swimmers will avoid ...
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Muddy Water in PondsAll ponds and small lakes can become muddy on occasion due to inclement weather. In most cases, these muddy conditions are short-lived and will clear in several days if no further rainfall occurs. Occasionally, a pond will become muddy (or turbid) and will fail to clear. These situations may necessitate measures to eliminate the turbidity and prevent future occurrence. Muddy water, as described in this fact sheet, is caused by soil particles (typically clay) and is usually a chocolate brown color. Water that is green in color is caused by an algae bloom as a result of excessive nutrients.
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Reference: Ohio State University Extension
Impact of Muddy Water
The two primary biological causes of muddy water are fish and waterfowl (ducks and geese). Large populations of common carp, goldfish, and bullheads can cause muddy water due to their spawning and feeding activities in shallow water. The constant splashing and rooting around in shallow water not only causes re-suspension of bottom soils, but is detrimental to shallow water vegetation that helps protect shorelines from wind-induced wave action. Large numbers of domesticated ducks and geese cause similar problems. Additionally, waterfowl often eat bank vegetation which can increase erosion.
Activities in the watershed are a leading cause of muddy ponds. Ponds that receive runoff water from nearby soils that are frequently disturbed with agricultural equipment are prone to be muddy. This is particularly true if farming is done right up to the pond bank. Another agricultural activity that causes muddy ponds is allowing livestock access to the pond. The frequent trips to drink cause considerable disturbance in shallow water. Construction within the pond's watershed can also result in considerable input of suspended clay into a pond. A watershed that is too small for the size of pond it flows into can cause muddy water due to wave action along exposed mud shoreline as water levels drop during periods of low rainfall.
If nuisance fish species are already present and causing muddy water, they need to be removed. Either drain the pond and remove them or treat the pond with a fish toxicant to eliminate the fish community. Restock with desirable species. If nuisance species are present but water clarity is acceptable, be sure to maintain a dense population of largemouth bass to ensure future control of the nuisance fish species. This can be accomplished by limiting harvest of the bass.
Keeping Canada geese away from ponds is becoming increasingly important as their population increases. If geese have caused a muddy water problem, harassment tactics are an option used by many. They range from air cannons to scare the birds away to dogs (border collies are often used) that continually harass the birds until they leave. There are also products on the market that make the vegetation and lawns around the pond unpalatable to geese. If they do not like the taste, they will eventually leave to find food elsewhere. Remember, the willful out-of-season shooting or poisoning of waterfowl is a federal offense!
Some watershed activities disturb clay materials that can result in muddy water problems that are extremely difficult to correct. A prime example of this is construction activity in the watershed. Colloidal clay particles are very small and can take a very long time to sink to the bottom. If you take a jar of water from your pond and after several days it is still very cloudy in appearance, you likely have a problem with clay particles. Several techniques exist that allow the pond owner to greatly reduce the levels of suspended clay particles. All of these techniques involve the "binding" of clay particles into larger particles which sink to the bottom much faster.
A time-honored method of removing suspended clay particles is the application of dry hay. Dry hay should not be confused with straw. The hay should be loosely distributed throughout the shallow areas of the pond. Recommended application rates are about 500550 pounds per acre-foot of water. Quite often a muddy pond will not need the full application to clear the water. You may wish to consider adding about 50% of the required amount, waiting 1014 days, and then assessing whether additional hay is needed. A good rule of thumb is that if water transparency reaches 1824 inches deep, enough hay has been added. There is one important reason to use as little hay as necessary. The addition of large amounts of organic material, such as hay, can lead to oxygen depletion as the material decomposes. This is especially true in July and August. If hay application must occur in summer, supplemental aeration may be needed to prevent a fish kill.
Agricultural gypsum is another material for removing suspended clay and does not cause the concern of a fish kill associated with adding hay. Gypsum is also chemically neutral and therefore does not cause possible pH problems associated with alum, another commonly used material. Typical application rates are from 1,0001,500 pounds per surface acre of water, depending on the severity of the clay suspension. Again, it is wise to add the gypsum at a conservative rate of 250500 pounds per surface acre of water, wait several days, and determine if additional gypsum is needed. This prevents excessive application and therefore helps keep costs down. Dissolve the gypsum in clean water and spray over the surface on a calm day. Late evening is often an ideal time to make the application as most nights are wind-free. Water movement from the wind prevents the suspended clay from quickly settling out, reducing the effectiveness of gypsum.
Alum (aluminum sulfate)
Alum is the most effective material for clearing clay turbidity from a pond, often within a few hours. Application rates are typically 100450 pounds per surface acre. As before, add 1/31/2 of the required amount, wait a day, and then determine if additional alum is required to increase transparency to about 18 inches. Application procedures are identical to those described for gypsum.
For alum, there is a very good reason to use the minimum amount necessary. After application, there is a chemical reaction that impacts the pH (acidity) of the water. The reaction produces small amounts of sulfuric acid which can decrease pH significantly in some waters to levels harmful to aquatic life.
Therefore, alkalinity and pH should be tested prior to application. Alkalinity should exceed 100 mg/l and pH should be greater than 7.0. If not, hydrated lime needs to be added simultaneously to buffer the effects of the acid produced by the alum addition. Application rate for lime is 50 pounds per acre-foot. It is wise to re-check alkalinity and pH repeatedly as more alum and lime is added. In situations where 400 pounds of alum may be needed, pH may begin to drop quickly even in waters where pH was initially deemed to be adequate for lesser additions. Hydrated lime also removes suspended clay, although not as effectively as alum.
Limestone (calcium carbonate)
Agricultural limestone is a material commonly used to removed suspended clay from the water. Application rates of 5001,000 pounds per surface acre are typically used. Limestone can be added in the same manner described for gypsum.
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|Data Source: Ohio State University Extension. Articles and resource may contain pesticide recommendations that are subject to change at any time. These recommendations are provided only as a guide and it is always the pesticide applicator's responsibility, by law, to read and follow all current label directions for the specific pesticide being used.|