Draining the farm pond

Late fall and early winter is a good time for pond management, such as removing silt to make the pond deeper, vegetation control, or to get rid of unwanted fish species.  This often requires draining some or all of the water.

Bryan Swistock is an extension water quality specialist at Penn State University. He says there are several ways to drain a pond. The most common method is to open the drainpipe that extends to the other side of the levee. A PVC siphoning system can be either permanently or temporarily installed over the top of the levee. If you’re in no hurry, some people have success using gravity, and the siphoning action of a garden hose.

Swistock says another option is to pump it out. 

"You can rent large water pumps often used for draining basements that get flooded. You’ll see fire departments use them, and most rental agencies have those, and you can use those to drain a pond down, there’s no other easy way to do it," says Swistock. "I should also mention with all of this, that there often are permits that are necessary to drain ponds down, so you’d need to check with your state agency about that before you do it"

A powerful pump can move water pretty quickly, but how long it takes will depend on the size of the pond and your desired water level. Water should flow into an area that will safely handle it, such as a drainage ditch, a floodplain, or stream. Swistock says you might have to create a diversion.

"Normally where let’s say a pond is fed by a stream, if you need to dredge it you’re going to have to divert the stream around the pond first of all, or drain it out and then send it down the existing stream channel," he says. "So really, all you’re doing is diverting the water around the pond that would normally have gone through the pond."

Use caution that it doesn’t drain too fast to prevent the water-soaked banks of the pond from sloughing off, and to minimize erosion of the stream.   

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