How to Plug a Leaking Farm Pond


There are many reasons for the water table in a pond to drop. Possible causes should be considered -- such as high water use from neighboring vegetation like willow trees, excessive evaporation due to high temperatures, or drought conditions resulting from low rainfall -- before determining that the culprit is a leak. Walking around the berm and dam of a pond to look for soggy areas can help diagnose if seepage is what is lowering the water level. However, sometimes the only visible sign of a leak is a pond that will not hold water.

Things You'll Need

  • Pump and hose
  • Excavator or tractor with a bucket and disk or rake attachment
  • Powdered bentonite clay: 1 to 3 lbs. per square foot
  • Sheepsfoot roller
  • Mulch hay
  • Drain the pond fully using the pump and hose and allow the soil to dry until optimum compaction moisture is achieved. Soil compaction can be determined by pressing a handful of soil into a ball. If the soil crumbles, it is too dry. If water leaks out of the ball, it is too wet.

  • Clear the pond area of all trees and stumps filling any holes. Disk or rake the top 8 to 10 inches of soil, removing any rocks or tree roots that are disturbed during this process.

  • Apply powdered bentonite over the soil surface at a rate of 1 to 3 lbs. per square foot. Coarse soil should receive the heaviest application rates.

  • Disk in the bentonite clay to a depth of 6 inches, again removing any rocks or tree roots.

  • Compact the soil under proper moisture conditions using the sheepsfoot roller. Four to six passes of the roller should be sufficient to compact the soil to a depth of 8 inches, which is sufficient for a water depth of 10 feet. If the pond water depth is greater than 10 feet, soil may need to be compacted in layers to achieve a compaction of 8 inches per layer with two or more layers.

  • Protect treated areas from drying by mulching with hay during the final compaction stage.

  • Fill the pond. Bentonite will swell from eight to 20 times its original volume to seal pores between soil particles.

Tips & Warnings

  • Bentonite will shrink and crack when dry, so it is not recommended for ponds in which the water level will fluctuate widely through draining or excessive evaporation.
  • Bentonite can be expensive. Treatment efforts can be concentrated around suspected problem areas, rather than the entire pond.
  • Using heavy equipment on ponds with steep sides is not recommended due to the danger of tipping.

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