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Retention Pond Safety

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Reducing The Risk Of Retention Ponds

It’s not unusual and perhaps becoming even more commonplace, to see Retention Ponds being built/required during new construction.  On some occasions these are ornamental only but generally they are required water drainage retention ponds.  Besides their noted purpose, they can also create liability and maintenance issues so here are some risk management advisories.


  • Prior To Construction:
    • Inform members of the pond design team that promoting public safety is an essential design. Avoid steep drop-offs at the water’s edge and try to grade to a mild slope.
    • Engineers are advised to design retention ponds with the help of a landscape architect who will often have excellent suggestions for promoting safety (along with techniques to enhance appearance and maintenance).
  • Don’t try to multi-purpose a retention pond for recreational use:
    • While tempting, it’s not recommended that you allow or develop intentional recreational use of your retention ponds or other bodies of water. These bodies of water present an inherent safety and liability concern and are better left solely to their intended purpose.
  • Utilize Signage:
    • Drowning is the number one danger associated with water hazards, especially among children. Children are attracted to water and retention ponds are often readily accessible since unlike swimming pools, they are not often fenced in.  Cautioning people about the potential dangers of water hazards may not prevent someone from entering a body of water on your property, but it may help reduce your liability if an accident occurs.
    • Consider posting signs that prohibit activities such as wading, swimming, fishing and boating.  If your pond is expressly situated in an area that it might draw the attention of younger children, perhaps too young to read, you may need to consider further safeguarding measures.
  • Consider a fence:
    • Having a fence around a retention pond or other body of water is probably the most effective way to deter people away.  Perhaps it’s not always a realistic option depending on location, size or even aesthetically, but if it’s possible, don’t overlook this as an option to consider.
  • Install Culvert Grates:
    • Consider installing angled grates over culverts and drains, especially if they are large enough for a child to enter. Storm-water runoff could propel a child into a channel, and angled grates may help force them upward instead of pinning them underwater.
  • Maintain A Healthy Pond:
    • Mosquitoes avoid breeding in moving water and bad algae also does not flourish in aerated water so consider a professionally installed fountain or aerator. This will also enhance the pond’s beauty.
    • Control the algae that will build up. There are numerous businesses that service these larger bodies of water and help control the algae and maintain the aesthetic value of your pond.

Retention ponds can change over time so be sure and regularly inspect and maintain them.  Look for potential hazards and address them immediately.  Also have an emergency plan in place in the event someone is ever in danger.