Perhaps nothing is more frustrating that finally constructing the pond or lake of a lifetime only to find that it doesn't hold water. Just as frustrating are pond leak repairs and repair theories that do not hold water.
We focus our leak location and repair strategies in 2 main areas - 1) SYNTHETIC LINED BASINS from small garden ponds to multiple acre ponds and lakes. 2) NATURALLY LINED BASINS - can be excavated ponds or lakes with no dam embankment or a pond or lake constructed with a dam embankment.
This can be exceptionally simple or painfully difficult depending on the situation. Let's state the obvious and move on from there - look for the wet spots around the pond. A soil probe will allow you to find moisture below the surface. If you do not have access to a soil probe, a ditch shovel will work just fine.
Probe or Dig as deep as you can in the suspect area and examine the soil for moisture content. The best time to look for moist areas around the pond is after an extended dry period - preferably a week or more. If you find significant moisture, you are likely in the vicinity of the leak and can narrow your search. Pay attention to vegetation around the pond. Lush green vegetation during extended dry periods can help you locate the pond leak as well.
To accomplish the pump test, select a pump that will allow you to draw down approximately 6 inches of water from the pond surface in less than 3 hours. (For large ponds, your local rental center or pond contractor should have a pump large enough for the job.)
Mark the starting water surface elevation and ending water surface elevation. Over the next 6-12 hours monitor the water surface carefully. If the water surface rebounds toward the starting point, the pond has most likely intercepted the water table. If the water surface stays at the same elevation, the initial water surface elevation is the elevation of the leak.
Now that the leak has been located, it's time to review the options for leak repair.
To properly apply bentonite to seal a pond, the pond must be drained and the bentonite then incorporated into the soil of the pond bottom and sides. The application rate for bentonite ranges from 2 pounds to more than 5 pounds per square foot depending on the soil characteristics. For clayey and silty soils, 2 pounds per square foot MAY be sufficient. For sandy soils 4 pounds MAY be sufficient and for soil containing gravel and rock, in excess of 5 pounds will be required to obtain a seal. Once the bentonite is applied, the soil should be disk harrowed to mix the soil and bentonite and then compacted. Alternatively, a continuous blanket of bentonite can be applied to the soil and then carefully covered with clean soil or sand to prevent the clay from mobilizing into the water column. There are now some forms of bentonite which may be applied through the water column effectively. Contact us for additional information.
In many cases, the cost of properly applied bentonite is as much as a properly installed geosynthetic pond liner system. Geosynthetic liner such as EPDM Rubber provides a completely impervious barrier for maximum water retention. The liner systems are field seamed in large panels and can be constructed to virtually an size. Once completed a geosynthetic liner can be covered with soil or rock which completely hides the liner system from view. The EPDM rubber pond liner referenced above carries a 20-year manufacturer's warranty and, in field tests, the liner lasts significantly longer than 20 years.
Another common location for pond leaks is at or near pipes/outlet structures that penetrate the pond embankement.
All pipes that are installed through the pond embankment should be fitted with an antiseep collar to prevent water from flowing along the pipe. If a pipe is installed through the embankment without an antiseep collar, the pipe can be excavated and a bentonite plug installed around the pipe. Ideally, the bentonite plug should extend at least 3x the pipe diameter around the pipe.
In some situations, it may be more effective to install a well or surface water intake to provide make-up water. There are a variety of automatic control systems that can be used to operate a well pump or valves to provide water to the pond. Surface water intakes can be constructed even if a gravity flow system is not feasible. Natural Waterscapes has installed a variety of pump-up systems to stabilize pond water surface elevations.