Earthen ponds are essential to many agricultural, industrial, and municipal operations. They support water storage, irrigation, and wastewater treatment (1, 2). In addition, they can provide a habitat for aquatic plants and animals, contributing to biodiversity and ecosystem health. However, earthen ponds are prone to seepage, resulting in significant environmental contamination, water losses, and environmental impacts (3–5). Hence, seepage prevention is critical to the sustainability and effectiveness of earthen ponds.
The key to addressing these challenges and repairing a leaky pond is identifying the causes of the seepage problem and selecting an appropriate pond sealing method (6). One effective solution for preventing seepage in earthen ponds is high-density polyethylene (HDPE) liners (7).
HDPE liners are durable, essentially impermeable, and cost-effective, providing a reliable barrier between the pond water and the surrounding soil (8–10). They can be custom-designed to fit any size or shape of the pond and are relatively easy to install. Moreover, HDPE liners have a long lifespan, making them an attractive option for pond owners and operators (11, 12). This article provides an overview of earthen ponds, describes the problem of seepage, and highlights the benefits of using HDPE liners for seepage prevention.
Earthen Ponds and Seepage Prevention
Earthen ponds are typically constructed by excavating a depression in the ground for various purposes such as industrial, aquaculture, irrigation, livestock watering, and as a source of drinking water (13). However, if not properly constructed and maintained, these ponds can threaten the surrounding groundwater due to seepage.
In general, seepage occurs when water flows through the porous soil or rock surrounding the pond and enters the groundwater system. One of the most significant causes of seepage in earthen ponds is soil permeability, which refers to the soil’s ability to allow water to pass through it. If the soil is highly permeable, it can allow water to seep easily. The permeability of soil is influenced by several factors, including soil type and density, texture, structure, and moisture content (14). See Figure 1 for a comparison of soil types.
Another factor that can contribute to seepage in earthen ponds is water pressure. Water pressure occurs when the water in the pond exerts a force on the soil or clay lining. If the water pressure is high, it will seep through the soil or clay lining. The pond depth, the water volume in the pond, and the water table level can influence water pressure. On the other hand, when the soil in the pond is saturated due to heavy rainfall, surface runoff, or poor drainage, the pond’s permeability and susceptibility to seepage increase. Seepage increase can lead to significant water loss from the pond (15). Similarly, soil erosion leads to the formation of channels or gullies in the soil, allowing water to seep through easily (16).
Additionally, poor soil compaction can also cause seepage in earthen ponds. This can be attributed to the fact that poorly compacted soil results in more pore space between soil particles, increasing soil permeability and increasing the likelihood of seepage (17). Finally, improperly constructed ponds might be prone to seepage. For instance, if the pond is built in an area with low water tables, it may be more susceptible to seepage (18). Similarly, water can seep through the soil or lining if the pond is not lined properly.
Seepage from earthen ponds can lead to hazards for human health and the environment. For instance, ponds used for agriculture, aquaculture, or industrial purposes may contain pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or heavy metals. Therefore, seepage from these ponds can contaminate groundwater with these chemicals, leading to health concerns.
In addition, earthen ponds used for livestock watering, aquaculture, or sewage treatment can be a source of pathogenic bacteria and viruses, where liquid seeping from these ponds can contaminate groundwater with pathogens. Besides, the ponds may contain high levels of nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, which can lead to the eutrophication of the water bodies and harmful algal blooms, causing the degradation of aquatic ecosystems and the depletion of oxygen levels in the water.
Multiple studies have investigated the impact of seepage in earthen ponds on the contamination of the surrounding environment, including the patterns of the bacterial community in sulfate-polluted groundwater near earth tailings ponds (19), the biological damage of rats by excessive anions-contaminated groundwater from earth metals tailings pond seepage (20), and the negative impact of seepage in aquaculture ponds on soil mineralogy and hydraulic conductivity (21, 22).
Another significant impact of seepage on earthen ponds is water loss, exacerbated in areas with limited water resources (23, 24). The pond can also undergo structural damage due to seepage-induced erosion, leading to walls or embankments collapsing in the pond and the surrounding areas (25). Ultimately pond seepage increases the maintenance costs and additional measures to prevent water loss. This includes repairing the pond’s walls or embankments or installing pumps to recirculate water, which can be costly and require continuous maintenance.
HDPE liners are barriers made of a thermoplastic polymer. They are widely used in the construction and industrial sectors for their excellent durability and resistance to various chemicals and environmental conditions (8, 10, 26). HDPE liners can be fabricated in different thicknesses, sizes, and shapes for ponds, landfills, and industrial tanks. They are typically made by extruding a sheet of HDPE and then seaming the edges using heat fusion welding techniques to create a continuous, seamless liner. As a result, they minimize the potential for leaks.
Generally, HDPE liners suit industrial ponds well, thanks to their resistance to various chemicals, including acids, alkalis, and organic solvents. In addition, with their outstanding mechanical properties and high durability, HDPE liners provide a cost-effective solution for seepage control and leakage prevention. This means they require less maintenance while providing a longer lifespan, reducing the replacement and repair frequency. As such, they are typically the most cost-effective liner for large projects (27). Furthermore, HDPE liners are an environmentally friendly option made from non-toxic, recyclable material (28, 29). Liners made of HDPE are easy to install and may be welded on-site, which decreases installation time and personnel costs, making them a desirable alternative for large-scale projects.
Earthen ponds are prone to seepage, leading to significant water loss, contamination, and environmental damage. Seepage prevention is critical to the sustainability and effectiveness of earthen ponds.
Earthen ponds are essential for various purposes but are prone to seepage, resulting in significant water loss and environmental damage.
Seepage-induced water loss and contamination can adversely affect water availability, quality, and ecological condition.
Soil permeability, water pressure, saturation, erosion, and poor compaction can contribute to seepage in earthen ponds.
HDPE liners offer excellent durability, flexibility, impermeability, and resistance to various environmental conditions, making them an attractive option for pond owners and operators. Moreover, HDPE liners are a cost-effective, easy-to-install, and reliable solution for preventing seepage in earthen ponds.
Finally, HDPE liners can effectively prevent seepage in earthen ponds, providing a reliable barrier between the pond water and the surrounding soil. Using HDPE liners can help pond owners and operators save water, maintain water quality, reduce maintenance costs, and prevent environmental damage. Information courtesy of Agru America.
Figures and Tables
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