Ponds with a Purpose

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What are Stormwater Ponds?

Stormwater ponds are not your average swimming, fishing, frog catching ponds. They are man-made basins that are built to capture and treat stormwater runoff until it can either infiltrate into the ground, or flow through pipes into streams, lakes or wetlands.

Why are these ponds in our neighborhoods?

Whenever it rains, stormwater rushes along hard, impervious surfaces (streets, roofs, sidewalks and parking lots), picking up pet waste, oils, fertilizers and nutrients (causing algae blooms and green coloring), pesticides, sediment (particulates that cause turbidity and brown coloring) and other  pollutants. This runoff flows into street drains and ditches. If untreated, the runoff ends up in rivers, streams and wetlands causing problems with water quality and flooding. These ponds are designed to catch this runoff in areas with impervious surfaces, thus treating the runoff and preventing many pollutants from reaching nearby waterways.

Symp Hills SE basin1 9-24-07 

Who is responsible?

It depends on the location. Typically, pond ownership falls to the cities, homeowner associations, or watershed districts. Each pond is different.

My pond looks gross, can I fix it?

It is important residents understand these ponds are not landscaping features, and while they may get smelly and green mid-summer, they are playing an important role at preventing all that pollution from getting into the lakes and rivers. They are designed to capture and treat the runoff carrying pollutants and so often end up with pollutant build up. Treatment of algae blooms may be allowed; contact City for more information.

Keep Them Looking Nice

These actions can help preserve stormwater ponds, keep them looking nice and greatly help reduce city, watershed district or homeowner association costs with maintenance of the ponds.

  • Limit the use of fertilizers and pesticides near ponds. Fertilizers lead to algae blooms.
  • Pick up and dispose of pet waste.
  • Do not dump grass clippings or leaves in the pond. This will also lead to algae blooms.
  • Preserve established trees, shrubs and vegetation. Do not mow down to the water’s edge. Instead leave a buffer of native plants to trap and clean runoff and add wildlife habitat.
  • Do not pour chemicals, oils, etc. in or near the pond.
  • Sweep driveway and sidewalk debris into lawns or gardens; do not hose it into the street.
  • Capture stormwater runoff from roofs and driveways in rain barrels or raingardens.
  • Do not release wildlife or pets (minnows, goldfish, etc.) in the pond.

Can I swim in these ponds?

It is not advisable to use stormwater ponds for fishing, swimming or ice skating. They capture pollutants from stormwater and even low levels of pollution exposure, obvious or not, should be avoided. Unhealthy exposure can either be direct (skin contact) or indirect (fish consumption).

In the winter, water flows to the ponds are often changing and water levels fluctuate. The water coming in can be warmer and melt ice faster. A study done in Edmonton found that even if water has frozen all the way to the bottom of a shallow section, channels of water can still cut through it.  Ice formation is unpredictable and not safe.  Road salt also plays a role as it can speed up thawing of ice.

Enjoy ponds and the wildlife they attract from a distance.