If you follow this recipe you will have an endless supply of muddy water, that will keep for eternity. Enjoy!
First you are going to need a container. Have a contractor with a large excavator only, prepare to dig a large hole in the ground while telling you it is a pond. Make sharp slopes, vertical if possible and scratch the clay soil at the bottom of the containment with the teeth of the excavator bucket, making sure to never pack any of this soil if possible. If you hit groundwater in the process, that is time to evacuate the excavation and everyone can say the pond is “spring fed”. Now you have the base for the mud soup! Those scratch marks that you whisked so caringly with your excavator teeth will turn into liquid clay solution. Now you want to have an ample supply of clay in solution for your recipe, so disturb all of the soil in the watershed that feeds into the pond making sure to never protect it with grassing or erosion control matting. Channeling of water over unprotected soil is an extra special ingredient and will really help intensify the results. Those sharp slopes that you prepared before are perfect for this and they help even after they enter the pond, collapsing over time in avalanche fashion, to add more loose clay to the bottom. Losing this soil along the side in large chunks that break off into the pond, not only make it unsafe to approach, but will also make a great presentation for your recipe. This recipe can be preserved by adding catfish that you allow to grow to ridiculous sizes, and never removing the ever growing population of turtles that will naturally migrate to the pond and lay eggs each year. Both of these will help keep the mixture stirred and the clay particles in solution. Don’t have turtles or huge catfish? Add a diffuser to the bottom in direct contact with the mud. That will add continuous stirring right where you need it.
The result… a lovely reddish brown color in your pond. Color may vary according to soil type. Erosion of those sharp banks will expand your pond without much encouragement falling in large chunks, taking pieces of your property with it and helping to fill the bottom of the pond.
So enough of being a smart alec…
We get calls regularly requesting assistance or advice on muddy water. It is almost always some part of the recipe above.
Not packing the bottom of a pond during construction and leaving loose clay soil at the bottom.
Sharp slopes on the pond edge encouraging erosion and mud avalanches.
Unprotected watershed and ditches leading into the pond.
Large catfish that were never removed.
Turtles that are allied to overpopulate, unchecked.
Adding a diffuser to the pond bottom directly in contact with the mud and without a riser.
Unfortunately, many “ponds” that are being dug for house pads are just boxed-off holes in the ground and are not properly constructed. This can be for your country home or for a pond or lake doubling as storm water retention containment in your neighborhood.
What is really happening? Well clay particles are the smallest soil particles. They are negatively charged, and they are shaped like a box kite. So the negative chargers repelling each other are enough force to keep the particles in solution.
The solution. We are honest if nothing else and we have NO sure fire solution. We have suggestions and advice.
First, if you have the option, make sure your pond is properly constructed. Then secured all open soil with grassing and protection material to hold until grassing takes over. There is no substitute for grassing, it is what holds soil in place. Do not spend time, money, and energy on trying to manipulate water that does not have a protected watershed… completely grassed.
There are certain things that you can add to your water to encourage the clay to settle: lime, gypsum, alum, hay, and fertilizer. Bacteria and algae are stocky cells that can grab clay particles and pull it out of solution. Hay facilitates the growth of bacteria and protozoans as it breaks down, and after it settles it can make a mat of straw fibers at the bottom, helping to tie up some of the mud and keep it from disturbing. Alum will change pH so it has to be added carefully to avoid stressing or killing fish, but it does effectively grab clay and bind it. Lime is calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, and should be considered for new ponds for water quality, but it also can help settle clay particles. Lime is easy to acquire in general. Gypsum in large quantities is more difficult, but is also able to settle clay particles. In our existing experience none of it works every time. I would start with hay and fertilization, then apply lime at 5 tons per acre. After a month, I may consider alum. A jar test with alum and lime can show you the response and you may be impressed, but it will not show the potential for it to re-disturb and go back into solution.
You should also remove turtles by trapping or any other acceptable means. Fish to remove large catfish. If you are adding or have diffusers operating, use a riser to get the diffuser portion off the bottom by 12 inches to 3 feet. Turn off diffusers and allow particles to resettle before starting again.
The other solution? Time works, if you do not have any major underlying factors. I have seen ponds that look like a NesQuik milkshake turn to the most acceptable color with 2 feet of clarity and a perfectly light green color after 6 months. That takes patience and an understanding that you have eliminated the other factors. The best way to approach this aggravation is methodically: build it right or correct it, secure the watershed, and then move through the water treatments. Remember no efforts on the water until the other major factors are eliminated. Don’t let the clay particles leave you negatively charged!