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Water Q & A - Lagoon Water Levels

Lagoon, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights August 2018. http://acreage.unl.edu/enews-August-2018
Lagoon photo courtesy of Carlyle Welch

Do you have questions about your private drinking water supply?  How about wellhead protection, including the management of your private sewage treatment system?  Send your questions using the Ask An Expert feature on this web site.  Questions will be addressed by Nebraska Extension Educator Meghan Sittler, Nebraska Extension Specialist Bruce Dvorak,  and/or  Nebraska Extension Educator Katie Pekarek. One question and answer will be featured each month in this section of the acreage web site.

Q: The water level in my lagoon stays at only about 2 feet. Is that a problem and how do I keep the water level higher?

Meghan:  For residential lagoons to function at their full potential the water level should be a minimum of 2 feet and a maximum of 5 feet in depth. So, a lagoon with a water level at 2 feet is just on the edge of maintaining full functionality to provide treatment processes for household wastewater.

Low water levels in a lagoon is most commonly the result of the lagoon being “oversized” for current use within the home. Lagoons, like all wastewater systems in Nebraska, are required to be a certain size based on the number of bedrooms in a home. When the lagoon is built, the home may be fully occupied by a family and so there are more people using more water. As children grow and move away or if a home is sold to different people with different water use patterns, the lagoon may be somewhat larger than is necessary. 

Less commonly, low water levels can also be a result of a malfunction in the design of the lagoon or problems with maintenance of the lagoon such as allowing too much vegetation to grow up around the lagoon.  The vegetation can draw moisture out of the berms of the lagoon and make some, although not a large, impact on the water levels.  Certain vegetation such as duckweed or cattails can also grow on the surface or within the lagoon itself drawing water up into the plants and impacting the actual treatment processes of the wastewater within the lagoon.

Vegetation can be managed by a homeowner through careful chemical or mechanical removal of nuisance plants such as duckweed or cattails from the lagoon itself. It is imperative that you follow all directions and take safety precautions. Vegetation on the sides, or berms, of the lagoon is part of the proper function and maintenance of a lagoon. Mowing the vegetation to a height of approximately 6 inches can be done by the homeowner and should be done regularly.

If you suspect your low water levels may be from a structural issue within the lagoon or wastewater system you should consult with a certified wastewater professional.  Additionally, a certified professional may be able to examine your home system to make recommendations on use patterns for the specific system.  Otherwise, low water levels because of a change of water use within the home can be difficult problem to solve. If a lagoon stays at 2 feet in depth it should be functioning to treat wastewater. The biggest concern comes in the winter where you will need to spread out warm water use to ensure that the lagoon does not freeze solid during extreme cold periods. 

For more information on residential wastewater lagoon operation and maintenance vistit: water.unl.edu. To find a certified wastewater professional in your area go to: http://deq.ne.gov/NDEQProg.nsf/OnWeb/Certification

Meghan Sittler
Meghan Sittler
Extension Educator - Domestic Water & Wastewater
Meghan's education includes a master's degree in natural resources with minors in political science and environmental planning. She also has a graduate certification in public policy analysis, as well as undergraduate degrees in environmental studies and anthropology from UNL. Her graduate project was focused on the development of collaborative and adaptive management for the Missouri River.

Sittler began as coordinator of the Lower Platte River Corridor Alliance in December 2008. Prior to that, Sittler worked for the National Park Service as an archaeological technician, an environmental educator with the Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department, an adviser and instructor with the UNL Environmental Studies program and School of Natural Resources and as a research and outreach specialist for the National Drought Mitigation Center. Meghan began her work as a Nebraska Extension Educator focussing on water in 2016.

Lancaster County Extension Office
444 Cherrycreek Rd
Lincoln NE 68528-1591
402-441-7180