Pond and lake management webinar slated for March 31

Green, fuzzy water isn't a given when it comes to Pennsylvania ponds, but aesthetic qualities can go down the drain quickly if water features aren't managed properly.

"If you let it go, a pond can get overgrown and turn into a green and nasty eyesore," said Susan Boser, water-quality educator for Penn State Cooperative Extension in Beaver County. She said ponds provide recreation and scenic beauty and attract wildlife, but she warned that algae, sediment and sometimes even Canadian geese can convert aesthetic benefits into blight.

Boser will present a Web-based seminar titled "Managing Your Pond or Lake" at noon and 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 31. It is the third of five water-quality webinars being offered by Penn State Cooperative Extension this spring. Other topics include water testing, septic systems and safe drinking water.

Ponds are defined as bodies of water less than five acres in size and can be either manmade or natural, according to Boser. Lakes are natural bodies of water larger than five acres. Ponds less than a quarter acre are often called “landscape” or “backyard” ponds. These very small ponds are similar to aquariums and will not be the focus of the webinar. Instead, the presentation will focus on management of larger farm ponds (greater than a quarter acre) and lakes.

Permits are often not required for building small ponds unless it disrupts the flow of a creek or stream, has a dam height of more than 15 feet, or impounds a drainage area of more than 100 acres, Boser said. She recommends that people interested in building a new pond first consult their local conservation district to help site the pond on their property.

Boser said she wants webinar participants to become aware of some of the tradeoffs associated with pond ownership. "Ponds are nice water features that can draw wildlife -- the turtles and frogs people like to have around -- but they also can draw wildlife people might not want so much," she said. "Muskrats can cause leaks and make the water murky, and Canada Geese, while they're pretty, leave droppings that can cause a real mess around the pond."

Unwanted plant growth is a major concern for pond owners, Boser said. Algae and invasive species such as Eurasian water milfoil can create a mat of vegetation in the water that can overtake a pond, impede water traffic or prevent light penetration to native aquatic plants below.

Other plants such as cattails and purple loosestrife crowd out other plants along the shore. Aquatic herbicides are available to combat some species, and although a professional pesticide applicator's license is not needed, permits to use these chemicals still must be obtained through the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, she said.

Alternatives to chemical controls include reducing nutrients entering the water, adding beneficial bacteria or using barley straw. Boser said in some cases, pond owners may add grass carp, but these may introduce problems of their own. Permits are required to stock grass carp to ensure that only triploid (sterile) fish are introduced. Boser noted that even if the carp don't reproduce, they still can muddy the water, grow huge and out-compete other fish species.

One of the webinar highlights will be discussion of a new pond-water testing program from Penn State's Agricultural Analytical Services Laboratory, Boser said. Free test kits are available at many county Cooperative Extension offices, but there is a fee required when water samples are sent to the lab.

The basic $42 package tests for pH, total dissolved solids, alkalinity, nitrate-nitrogen, aluminum, iron, manganese, phosphorus sulfate and water hardness. The more comprehensive $70 kit tests for all of these items plus bacteria. "Bacteria such as e-coli can be a problem, especially with low water and Canada geese combined," Boser said.

The pond-management webinar is part of a series targeting the most common water questions and concerns people have about water resources on their own property, whether those are water wells, septic systems or ponds. The series will cover water resource types, as well as associated threats to water quality and how to manage them.

Participants must pre-register for the webinars, but only one registration is required for the entire series. To register, visit http://water.cas.psu.edu/webinars.htm. Once participants have pre-registered, they may visit this Web site on the day of the presentation and simply click on the link with the title of that day's webinar.

Penn State Cooperative Extension Water Webinars are held the last Wednesday of each month until May and will air at noon and 7 p.m. on each date. Remaining topics for the spring series include:

--April 28 - Safe Drinking Water Clinic (Peter Wulfhorst, Penn State Cooperative Extension, Pike County)

--May 26 - Managing Your On-Lot Septic System (Dana Rizzo, Penn State Cooperative Extension, Westmoreland County)

For more information, contact Susan Boser at 724-774-3003 or by e-mail at smw16@psu.edu.
 

Last Updated November 18, 2010