Correctly managing dams for better healthier results

Case Study by Sean Altern – Consultant: Biodiversity Conservation Services

In closed systems correct management interventions are vital.

NCC Environmental Services assists estates, farm managers and landowners to better understand their water bodies through information gathering activities such as fish sampling and water analysis and in conjunction with renowned scientists provides informed management plans and advice as well as the practical assistance. If you have someone looking after your pool; why not do the same with your estates dam.

Consider a fish tank or swimming pool. The fish need food, the pool requires chemicals, weeds are cleaned out and leaves sucked up. In both cases filters need to be cleared. In closed systems human intervention is required. Now consider a small farm dam or a detention pond within a housing estate. The scale is slightly larger but unbeknownst to most, the same principles apply: it is a closed system and need proper care. These water bodies are generally isolated, often heavily influenced by surrounding residential or commercial actions and completely dependent on informed management interventions. Many HOA’s or managers inherit large ponds or dams as part of their site scope yet they have no experience in the specialised field of freshwater management or ecology. In many cases it is not even known what criteria a dam should meet or when it is considered to be ‘unhealthy’.

NCC Environmental Services conducts in field sampling and monitoring to gain insight and thorough understanding into each water body. Working in conjunction with a wide range of top freshwater scientists these specialist recommendations are then collated into site specific and tailored practical management plans to be implemented either by the land owner, or if they wish, through the service of NCC. Water quality is the result of what is allowed to influence the dam and what is not and all of these variables need to be considered and carefully balanced.

Implementation involves three key phases: Mapping out and understanding the inputs to each the system such as road or fertiliser runoff is the first assessment task. Secondly the current and expected state is gauged through monitoring and sampling including tasks such as quantification of fish numbers and species, all of which need to be managed to produce a healthy environment. The third stage involves the drafting of plans and the implementation thereof whether through practices such as reed bed clearing, adapted grounds practices or simply dosing with the correct chemicals. A full holistic approach is taken with key performance indicators identified such as water quality parameters which allow property owners and caretakers peace of mind that these valuable water assets are being correctly managed.

Water bodies are no different to fish tanks. They are simply bigger and located outdoors but require the same level of specialist understanding in order to remain functional and healthy. Located in modified environments, regardless of how eco-friendly the area may be, many of these dams are unnatural in origin and being closed systems are not self-sustaining. It is thus vital to understand and implement the various actions needed as an integral part of these modified ecosystems in order to establish and maintain a healthy balance.

NCC Environmental Services is able to manage dams for landowners or provide the specialist advice and management plans needed for self-implementation. Correct management of these waterbodies is essential and results in long term cost and management reductions.

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