By Melanie Downes
When people think of ponds, some may think ‘green’ is just for algae. Today, however, ponds can be crystal clear and environmentally ‘green.’ In fact, ponds are esthetically beautiful, incredibly relaxing, and offer a variety of ecological benefits. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), for instance, gasoline-powered landscape equipment (e.g. mowers, trimmers, blowers, and chainsaws) used to maintain traditional landscapes account for more than five per cent of urban air pollution. Further, residential application of pesticides is typically at a rate 20 times that of farmers per acre; yard wastes (mostly grass clippings) comprise 20 per cent of municipal solid waste collected, and most still ends up in landfills; and a lawn has less than 10 per cent of the water absorption capacity of a natural woodland—one reason for suburban flooding. Replacing all or at least some portions of a lawn with a pond can actually support the environment.
Ponds have been around forever, but the trend is increasing in popularity. Ecosystem ponds and ecological swim ponds are inspired by natural environments and use nature as a living filtration system. Without the use of chemicals, pond owners are as close to a natural body of water in their own backyard without the need to drive anywhere. This is one of many ‘green’ benefits—less harmful emissions from cars as pond owners get to enjoy their ‘staycation’ every day without having to commute to the cottage.
Simple pond ecology
There are five main elements to creating a healthy ecosystem pond. They include: filtration (both biological and mechanical), rocks and gravel, recirculation pump systems, fish, and aquatic plants.
These elements all work together in nature by the infinite and constantly evolving ecosystem. For instance, fish nibble on plants and algae, which in turn produce waste along with other debris, which falls to the bottom of the pond. Debris is then broken down by the aerobic bacteria and the other micro-organisms colonized on the rocks and gravel, which are also found on the bottom of the pond. Once broken down, these substances are absorbed as essential nutrition for healthy plants. The plants grow, and the fish once again nibble on them.
People want their gardens lush and their grass green, which requires spending endless hours of watering and thousands of gallons of water. In fact, running a sprinkler for two hours can use up to 1,900 L (502 gal) of water. Unfortunately, much of this water is not actually absorbed by the lawn’s root system and is simply a waste of a precious resource. On the other hand, ponds and swim ponds are enclosed systems, which require water only to replace that which has evaporated and not naturally restored by rain. Further, swim ponds never have to be emptied or the water replaced. The pond’s lush plants are also are self-sustaining with hydration from the pond water and rain.