Retention ponds in Indianapolis

If you are not a native Hoosier (and perhaps even if you are) you might wonder why there are so many retention ponds in Indianapolis? True, you can see them pretty much anywhere in the country, but there is no doubt about it, central Indiana is home to more of these man made water features than average. Is it just for looks? Is it a home for waterfowl? The answer might surprise you!

Why so many Retention Ponds in Indianapolis?

What is a retention pond?

Lake…pond…what is the difference? There seems to be no technical difference other than ponds are generally smaller and less deep than lakes. Because these man-made bodies of water are generally small and shallow, they’re referred to as retention ponds.

You can often tell a retention pond by the large pipes at one or more banks of the pond. Some of them have fountains in the middle making them more aesthetic (and serving another purpose, which we will dive into later, pun intended!)

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What purpose do retention ponds serve?

As the name suggests, these ponds simply retain water. Central Indiana gets over 40 inches of rain each year, making it rainier than the wet city of Seattle. This geographical location was also once home to huge, old, deciduous forests before they were cleared when Indiana was settled. In days of yore, when this copious amount of rain would fall, there was vegetation, and root systems to soak it all up. Now, with only homes, roads, and open plains to collect the deluge, flooding is a real threat.

Much of the runoff from rainstorms in Indianapolis ends up in rivers and streams. However in neighborhoods and suburbs, this water mostly goes down storm drains and into retention ponds. The ponds provide a space for the water to be retained so the storm drains are not overwhelmed. When the water rises high on the banks of retention ponds reaching the risers, it will head to storm drains, however hopefully by that time the drains have had time to expel their watery contents.

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Retention ponds offer more than just flood control

Retention ponds provide support for excessive rainfall, but they also support the ecosystem and add aesthetic value to properties. Waterfront homes in neighborhoods with retention ponds are generally the most expensive lots, and it’s easy to see why. Water features are pleasing!

Some of these ponds have fountains in the middle, which one might take at first glance to be only for appearance. Keeping the water moving in standing water is actually quite important. This disruption of the surface tension keeps mosquito breeding at bay and keeps the surface from freezing over during the winter months.

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Unfortunately, though pretty, retention ponds are usually a “no fun” zone. Often signs are posted that state there is to be no fishing, swimming, or ice skating on the pond. Usually, the maintenance of retention ponds is covered in the HOA of a neighborhood. The risers must be kept clear of debris, aeration systems need occasional maintenance, and sometimes the banks of the pond need to be filled in due to erosion.

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