How I learned to stop worrying and love stormwater ponds.

How I learned to stop worrying and love stormwater ponds.

You have purchased a newly built home, and you can’t help but notice that right in the middle of your new subdivision is a pond. It dawns on you that you’ve seen this many times before, but have never given them a second thought, now it’s in your backyard. So what is it?

Most people appreciate the fact that their new home comes with a connection to nature. A nice walking trail, native planting, neighborhood critters and birds, a link to wildlife – but what is this pond?

Perhaps the developer has a fondness for marshland and wanted to share his love of frogs and dragonflies? Maybe the mayor owed a favour to a commercial landscaper or environmental restoration company? Green seems to be a trendy buzzword these days, perhaps your local municipality is looking for some good PR? There is a perfectly good explanation though; SWM.

SWM… not helpful? A Stormwater Management Pond. In short, it is an artificially constructed pond that helps collect and retain rainwater in urban areas. An urban area is dominated by impervious surfaces such as roads, sidewalks, driveways, roofs, playgrounds and parking lots. These impervious surfaces significantly increase the speed at which rainwater and snowmelt enter the stormwater drainage system. Stormwater drainage systems route water into creeks, wetlands and lakes. These stormwater drainage systems need a buffer from all that water, as they are often old systems built when our communities were much less densely populated. If left unchecked a sudden and quick surge could cause widespread flooding and erosion. A stormwater pond manages this surge and releases it slowly, which mitigates the intensity of storm induced flooding. They help protect communities in multiple regions across the country.

In an effort to manage these risks of flooding, erosion, and wetland destruction municipal governments require developers to construct stormwater management ponds. There are two types of ponds; wet ponds and dry ponds. Wet ponds always have some water present. Dry ponds fill and empty throughout the season. Both ponds control stormwater runoff from their subdivision and are constructed by specialized commercial landscaping firms. While dense urban areas with older infrastructure could benefit from SMW ponds, it is easy to see the difficulties faced in transforming Nathan Phillips Square into a pond. Dramatic measures such as these are not required as long as upstream communities continue to build ponds in new subdivisions. The pond in your backyard provides a lovely view but will also help ease the burden on many downstream communities.

Now that you know what a stormwater management pond is, what do you need to do with it? A specialty landscape contractor built it, are you responsible for looking after it? Upon assumption of the subdivision the local municipality will start maintaining the stormwater management ponds. The City’s role in the pond maintenance includes:

  • Removal of sediments (as needed)

  • Removal of debris in and around the pond

  • Removal of invasive vegetation

  • Maintenance of structures such as gates and valves

  • Maintenance of surrounding vegetation and plants

  • Vegetation replacement if required

  • Bank stabilization to prevent erosion

  • Pond monitoring


The only responsibility for residents is that they follow these guidelines:

  • Do not swim, wade, skate or boat within the stormwater pond

  • Exercise safety around stormwater ponds

  • No dumping or littering, help keep it beautiful and natural


Stormwater management ponds have a very specific function within the community and help to make neighbourhoods safer. They also save precious municipal resources. The addition of native tree and shrub planting, terraseeding wild grass species, natural habitat construction and the building of walkways and seating platforms are all ancillary benefits that go well beyond the intended purpose of the pond. Perhaps there is some good PR in there after all. Enjoy the view.

Geoscape Team

The Geoscape writing team is a diverse collection of industry professionals whose collective experiences are as varied and unique as the landscaping projects they help create. With educational backgrounds in horticulture, engineering, communications and philosophy the Geoscape team has the ability to bring the world of commercial landscaping to life. True to the Geoscape mandate, care for the environment, community and craftsmanship are paramount and all projects are carried out with great pride and enthusiasm.

  • I totally get it. Keep up the great work Geoscape.
    Educating the public, and performing at the highest level of integrity and professionalism.

    Bobby Lee
    General Manager
    Quantum Signs Inc.

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