A Different Look at IPM: Integrated Pond Management
For example, if aquatic plants are determined to be a nuisance,
attempts are made to control the plant with certain treatments.
Aquatic weed control guides provide instructions for applying
chemicals for temporarily controlling the weed, but such an
approach probably would not produce a long-term cure.
The best management approach to pond problems involves managing
the pond ecosystem, not just the individual organisms. An
organism approach treats the symptom, but an ecosystem approach
identifies and treats the cause. This concept can be called IPM:
in this case, Integrated Pond Management.
Ponds and lakes serve many purposes on a golf course. They can
influence the strategy of a golf hole or provide irrigation
water. Ponds serve as drainage containment areas or add aesthetic
value to the course. The different uses of a water body dictate
the maintenance parameters that must be considered. For example,
irrigation reservoirs must contain a minimum of debris,
particulates, and other contaminants. Management of these water
bodies is concerned mostly with water quality. Irrigation ponds
are different from most ponds because the turnover of water is
usually quite rapid. Other water bodies demand more complex IPM
practices because the water passes through the system much more
It is presumed that a golf course manager should have a thorough
understanding of agronomy, but must he have an equal degree of
understanding of lake management? Probably not, but he should be
familiar with the basics of limnology (the science of fresh water
bodies). After all, he is responsible for decisions made
regarding pond management.
The first step is to contact experts in the field of limnology;
the actual management plan should be developed by an experienced
water manager. Nevertheless, a basic understanding of how a pond
ecosystem and surrounding watershed operates will get you started
on the right foot to successful pond management.
The dictionary defines lakes and ponds as "bodies of
water." This term is very accurate. A water body is a living
organism which develops from year to year and changes over time.
Knowing what goes into and comes out of a water body is an
important part of understanding a pond's life cycle. The
operation of a pond ecosystem depends on available energy and
nutrients. Aquatic flora and fauna need nutrients to live and
grow. When nutrients are limited, growth is limited.
Controlling nutrient levels in a pond can be an effective
management tool for controlling nuisance weeds. Phosphorus,
nitrogen, and, to a lesser extent, potassium are used by aquatic
plants. Phosphorus is often the limiting nutrient in ponds. A
difference as low as 10 ppb can change a pond from oligiotrophic
(poorly nourished) to eutrophic (well nourished). That is a very
small concentration! It is the well-nourished pond that
frequently has excess plant growth.
Nutrients enter ponds in several ways. It is here that the turf
manager can minimize lake eutrophication by controlling the
pond's diet. Eutrophication is a biological response to
increasing nutrient inputs. Eutrophic lakes are commonly high in
aquatic weed populations, and oxygen levels can be out of balance
with biological oxygen demand. Even though many lakes are
"choked" with weeds, however, it does not mean they are
eutrophic. Most lakes are in a steady state of development and
seem to buffer most effects of a mature watershed.
Lakes near heavily populated areas, including cities, towns, and
agricultural lands (golf courses), are subject to outside
influence. For this reason, the incoming nutrient load should be
measured and monitored. Data from this testing can be used by a
limnologist in developing a nutrient budget, which can provide a
valuable predictive and diagnostic tool.
How can a superintendent manage the watershed so impacts on the
pond are minimal? The first step is to have a lake management
firm test the water for phosphorus, dissolved oxygen, volume of
inflow and outflow, and a battery of other factors. This
information, along with land use and watershed statistics,
provides a base of information.
The second step typically involves a close review of the changes
needed to reduce the negative input to the pond. The management
process can be divided into two major sections: watershed, or
out-of-lake management, and in-lake management.
Septic leaching fields are designed to allow bacteria and
minerals to filter the wastewater before it enters the
groundwater, stream, or lake. Golf courses commonly are affected
by leach fields coming from the clubhouse or surrounding homes.
Tests should be done to determine the amount of phosphorus
entering the pond from septic fields.
Runoff in the form of drainage can be a source of pond
contamination. Watersheds in commercial or residential areas can
produce large amounts of phosphorus in runoff, especially in the
first wave of runoff. One way to mitigate this effect is to have
the first wave of drainage water coming into a golf course enter
a dry well. This effectively catches a good portion of phosphorus
in the first flush, whereas later flood water is significantly
lower in phosphorus concentration and can bypass the dry well.
Livestock waste contains nutrients that can enter waterways, and
croplands upstream from golf courses can be a source of sediment
and nutrients. Your county extension office should have handbooks
for calculating soil loss and quantities of animal waste
Properly managing fertilizer applications within a watershed is
extremely important. Fertilizer applications within 50 feet of a
water body or stream should be applied with a drop spreader.
Normally, nitrogen leaching from fertilizer applied to turf is
very small when slow-release sources are used, but it can be
higher under optimum conditions and when soluble fertilizer
sources are used. Runoff contaminants from turf are usually
negligible, which makes turfgrass an excellent buffer strip.
The ability of turf to limit nutrients entering the water supply
depends upon grass type and density, fertilizer source, method of
application, temperature, soil type, rainfall or irrigation
events, and timing of application. The turf manager can control
nutrient loading into water bodies and have a dramatic effect on
the health of a pond.
Following are some basic guidelines:
- Use slow-release nitrogen sources.
- Minimize late fall fertilization with soluble nitrogen
sources, especially near watersheds and on sensitive
- Develop dense, healthy turf.
- Apply fertilizer under carefully controlled
Some view birds and other wildlife as an indication that the
environment is favorable to nature. The presence of wildlife
gives a sense of harmony with nature. Some types of wildlife,
however, can be a real nuisance.
Canada geese feed on new grass sprouts and lush turf, and golf
courses are some of their favorite restaurants. The major problem
with geese is their excrement. One goose can excrete 50 grams of
phosphorus per month, contributing to the eutrophication of a
water body; therefore, their presence should be discouraged.
Deterrents include Styrofoam swans, dogs, pop-guns, and yellow
rope stretched across the water. Burrowing animals can break down
lake and stream banks, causing erosion and sedimentation.
Trapping and removing them is the most feasible control method.
Buffer strips along ponds and waterways help filter certain types
of pollutants. Buffers can be grass, brush, trees, or other
vegetation. Grass buffers can be an excellent choice because of
their good filtering activity and minimal litter characteristics.
Water in shallow streams and drainage ditches can heat up if
exposed to intense sun. Wooded buffers along streams help
minimize thermal pollution.
Streams and drainage ditches constructed in a straight line
(channelization) are subject to erosion and degraded water
quality. Water can reach a high velocity of flow in these
circumstances and carry silt and contaminants into ponds. Pond
dredging is often a treatment of the symptom caused by
Streams and ditches should meander, thereby reducing flow
velocity, and rocks can be used as rip-rip to stabilize banks.
Velocity reducers, such as weirs, check dams, etc., also can be
used effectively. Furthermore, sediment ponds and sediment traps
can collect debris before it enters the pond.
Ponds that are totally surrounded by trees can become stagnant if
wind movement is blocked. In response, trees can be removed to
allow prevailing winds to naturally aerate ponds.
Water bodies that are becoming or have become eutrophic may
benefit from aluminum sulfate (alum) applications. This material
precipitates phosphorus from the water column into chemically
unavailable forms in sediment.
Aerators influence the rate of oxygen transfer from air to water
by creating turbulence and increasing the surface area of water
in contact with air. The end result is more oxygen in the water
up to the point of saturation. Oxygen/ water relationships are
quite complex, however, and the idea of aeration as the key to
lake health is much like saying orange juice is the key to good
Much less phosphorus is released into the water from bottom
sediments when the water overlying these sediments is oxygenated.
Aeration can be a method of controlling phosphorus release in
some lakes, and this can help reduce algal bloom.
If aeration is not carefully controlled, however, phosphorus in
bottom sediments can be stirred up and may actually increase the
algae population. Since the entire water column is mixed, the
surface scum of algae is spread out in the water column and gives
the illusion of algae control.
Some biologists state that aerators do not control algae, and may
make the problem worse. Most agree, however, that careful
aeration is beneficial.
A type of aeration that selectively aerates different layers of
the lake is being used successfully in some situations. The term
is hypolimnetic aeration. This, and similar selective aeration
methods, show great promise and are relatively inexpensive.
Still another fairly new method actually withdraws nutrient-rich
bottom water and discharges it out of the lake. Both hypolimnetic
and subsurface withdrawal leave the natural stratification
Ozone injection, a spin-off from water treatment plants, is
making a move into lake management. Ozone, a powerful oxidant,
can remove odor, color, viruses, taste, algae and organics, and
helps flocculate micopollutants. This, too, offers promise as a
tool, but not as a cure-all.
Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella):
Different studies reveal different opinions on this plant-eating
fish. One study found that carp eat many plants with minimal
effect on native fish (depending on stock rates), but waters
become higher in phosphorus, turbidity, and algae.
Other reports contradict this, stating that carp eat algae and do
not cause murky water. More information is needed, and each state
has different guidelines regarding their legality.
Other biological agents are being tested in several states. Some
weeds in the South have been reduced by using insects, but their
effectiveness is limited. Researchers at the University of
Massachusetts are working on a caterpillar to control Eurasian
millfoil. Biological controls are not yet available on a wide
scale in most areas.
Many other popular methods of treating pond problems exist:
chemical applications, dredging, harvesting, lake drawdown, dyes,
and screening. Each method has a specific effect on the pond
ecosystem. Integrated pond management looks at watershed and lake
techniques for minimizing nuisance aquatic plants. Water quality
is also a consideration in pond management. The management plan
will probably utilize two, three, or more of the techniques in
this report. One control method is seldom, if ever, the total
Good pond management actually starts with proper construction
techniques. Site selection, the size of the pond, intended use,
subsoil type, and many other factors must be considered before
building a pond.
The Brae Burn Country Club in West Newton, Massachusetts,
recently built a four-acre-foot pond for irrigation and aesthetic
purposes. The golf club has been dependent upon municipal water
for years, and they wanted their own water source. A pond was
proposed, and a professional engineer developed the plan.
The pond was lined with 20 mil PVC, and a ballast of sand was
placed 10 inches deep on top of the PVC. A bottom outlet was
installed to allow for drawdown.
A 15-foot buffer of grass was installed that pitched away from
the water. The nearby stream was left undisturbed to prevent the
possibility of nutrients entering the stream. The moral of this
story is that ponds can indeed be built that are both functional
and environmentally benign.
Water body management is complex. It involves both terrestrial
and aquatic factors, internal and external nutrient sources, food
chains, oxygen balances, stratification, and a myriad of
influences. On top of this, cycles change during the seasons and
through the years. Lake management that is comprehensive and
holistic, tailored for a specific purpose, has hope for real
Klein, Richard D. 1990.
Protecting the Aquatic Environment, from the Effects of Golf
Community & Environmental Defense Associates, Maryland Line,
Kortman, R. W., D. D. Henry.
Connecticut Institute of Water Resources: Mirrors of the
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:
An Evaluation of Aquatic Vegetation.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation:
Control with Sterile Grass Carp.
Environmental Research, Inc., Southbridge, Massachusetts:
Management of Lakes and Ponds.
THE MANAGEMENT of ponds on golf courses can be a complicated
business. In a sense, managing a body of water can be likened to
the managing of the human body. The human body is affected by the
things around it and what enters it. When someone has a fever, he
often treats the symptom with medicine. The medicine may work to
relieve the symptom, but it may not treat the actual cause of the
distress. Likewise, treating the symptoms of a pond problem may
not provide a permanent resolution to the cause of the problem.