It's important to recognize the safety risks of ponds for children and pets.
Installing a proper fence, net, and alarm is key to pond safety.
Consider outdoor lighting for pond safety in the evenings.
Review pond safety tips with your children and never leave them unattended near water.
Backyard ponds are endlessly beneficial, from attracting diverse wildlife to creating a sense of serenity to kick back with a book at the end of the day. And yet, pond safety—whether you have young children, pets, or neighbors with kids—should always be at the forefront of your mind when designing any water elements on your property.
If you're debating installing or removing your backyard pond, here are the safety tips you need to know for ultimate peace of mind.
How Safe Are Backyard Ponds?
Let's get down to the most obvious question: Should you have a backyard pond if you have children or pets nearby? The truth of the matter is that drowning can occur in as little as 1 inch of water, particularly for infants and young children. Even very shallow bodies of water on your property can pose a risk.
However, there are clear and concrete ways to safeguard any water element in your yard, including gorgeous koi ponds and swimming ponds. Incorporating safety features into your design—and setting standards of behavior near the water—can make this a viable, safe, and equally serene backyard option. Here are six areas of pond safety to consider.
1. Start With Local Zoning Laws
Whether you recently moved to a home with a pond or are considering adding one, start by checking your local zoning laws for guidance. Zoning laws for water elements typically include basic environment requirements such as its size, drainage, and water source. But safety features may or may not play just as large a part in the list of must-dos.
For example, fencing laws typically pertain to any body of water over a certain depth, whether you intend to swim in it or not. Specifications about the fence may indicate its height, slat width, and placement of the door's latch and lock.
Safety regulations also pertain to public accessibility. A highly visible pond from the street has different rules than one tucked back behind your home. Your town may require a fence to block off the view of the pond from those who pass by.
Local pond experts in your area can also help you navigate the laws when choosing where to place any water feature.
2. Choosing a Safety Fence for Your Pond
One thing is clear: The right fence is the first step to making your pond safer. A fence ensures that a little one doesn't wander over to touch the water or your puppy doesn't go chasing after a koi fish. However, not all fences are true safety fences. Here are some basics to consider when choosing a fence.
You can get helpful details from your local ordinance or zoning department. Most requirements state that fences should be at least four feet tall, have no more than three inches between slats, and have a door inaccessible to little ones. Doors that swing outwards and feature a lock and alarm are also helpful.
The distance between your fence slats must strike a balance. While they shouldn't be wide enough for a child or pet to slip through, they also shouldn't be so close together that you can’t observe what's going on in the pond. This is particularly true if your pond sits up a hill or around a corner of your yard and the angle of slats would keep you from spotting danger from afar.
A simple perimeter of chicken wire is not enough to keep a determined toddler or golden retriever from exploring the pond. Choose a stable fence material like wood, wrought iron, or vinyl fence that is anchored in the ground.
While the job of the fence is to keep pets and kids out, you will need to access your pond for daily care and for safely enjoying its beauty. Choose a fence with a lockable door and place it far enough from the water that you can easily test the water, adjust your pond mechanism, and feed your hungry koi.
Work with your local fence installers to choose the best material, door construction, and measurements for your landscape.
3. Use Netting as a Second Line of Defense
Pond netting or grids may seem like easy fixes, but these covers may not be strong enough to handle a falling child or leaping pet. Even when professionally installed, the netting will have enough give for a child to either fall through or still land in at least an inch of water. Pond netting is absolutely helpful in tandem with other safety features, but it should not take the place of a fence.
4. Installing a Pond Alarm
In addition to your fence, an alarm is an excellent way to detect unwanted visitors in any body of water such as a pond or pool. The alarm will sound if something falls into your body of water. This is not always ideal for koi ponds or those that attract birds and fish, but many varieties come with a range of settings that attach to your smartphone.
5. Outdoor Lighting Is Key
Bodies of water always become a bit more dangerous at night when visibility is low. Luckily, outdoor lighting design adds both style and safety to your pond or water element. Add evening lights around the water and to and from the pond along the walkway, and consider installing a motion sensor for later evening hours.
6. Reviewing Water Safety With Your Kids
Safe Kids Worldwide highlights ways to increase water safety in and around your home. Above all, it's important to avoid unsupervised time around bodies of water. Safe Kids recommends assigning a water watcher when there are several adults present to ensure you each have an eye on the pond at all times children are around.
Reviewing water safety and developing swimming skills can also cut down on the chance of accidents. Speak to your children about how ponds are built differently than swimming pools. These natural bodies of water can be more slippery around the edge and it's more difficult to see their depth from above.