news from the waterfront by Tim Matson


Ask anybody in the land use field today, and they’ll tell you that topic number one is storm water runoff management. Rural ponds used to be part of that effort, and in fact the USDA pioneered pond building as a control for erosion and flooding.

As a pond designer I was once able to use USDA services to help map out watersheds so I could properly size pond spillway systems to handle maximum storm runoff. They also had soil maps, and field agents to help survey pond site contours and generally get a pond plan ready for the excavator.

But over the past couple of decades those services have dried up. Why? The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) told me they had their hands full dealing with storm water runoff management designs for commercial farms and infrastructure developments. The message was, we don’t have the money or the staff to help people build ponds for swimming, fishing, etc. I guess they forgot that those same ponds slow down flood waters and erosion. Just like they used to.

Now flash forward to the present and consider the planetary changes we’re experiencing, in particular flooding and erosion. Think New Orleans, Cedar Rapids, Florida, and the Texas Gulf Coast, not to mention Cuba, Haiti, India, etc. Maybe you’re wondering what you can do to help, like cut your carbon output, contribute to charity, drive to New Orleans or Texas and help with the cleanup. All good efforts.

And here’s the really cool part. If you own a pond, you’re already part of the solution. Because flood control and ponds are still connected. A study published a few months back in the journal Science shows that reservoirs worldwide slow watershed runoff from reaching the oceans at a significant enough rate to decrease the rate of sea rise.

“Sea level rises over the past century would have been one third more, had it not been for reservoirs, showing they can have a significant impact in curbing the effects of rising waters,” writes Roger Highfield, science editor at the UK’s Telegraph, summarising the study.
Man made ponds are, of course, reservoirs. And there are millions of them in the US, and who knows how many around the world. The more the merrier, and the fewer the floods.

So I’d like to suggest a couple of things. First, if you  own a pond, you can take a bow for helping in a modest way to put the brakes on the sea rises we’re experiencing due to climate change, plus hurricane flooding and erosion. Second, if you’ve been thinking of building a pond and need one more reason to give it a green light, consider the pond’s positive effect on storm water management, and reducing sea level increases and flooding. Dig it.

As for the NRCS, hey guys, it’s time to get back to your roots. You pioneered ponds for flood control over a half century ago, and now the need is even greater.

Click Here for other Pondologies by Tim Matson

© earthponds.com 2003-2017 Photos by Tim Matson. All rights reserved.