Fill A Pond With Dirt? Sure, And It Is Surprisingly Simple.

Ponds are an awesome aesthetic feature for any property, and many property owners remain loyal to the classic water feature. Naturally, there is also a downside to having a pond, and some of these drawbacks may even require you to fill yours up with dirt or gravel. But can you?

You can fill your pond with dirt in most areas without running into issues with local ordinances. Installing a pond can be costly and full of red tape, but filling one in to match the surrounding landscape is as simple as removing the water and liner and filling with dirt or gravel.

The following article discusses the best approach when it comes to filling in an unwanted pond. We will go through the whole step-by-step process before discussing the legal landscape surrounding this issue. Let’s begin.


Can You Just Simply Fill In A Pond?

Now, there is no denying the beauty and environmental benefits that come with a pond. From the potential water savings to the assortment of wildlife they can support, ponds have a lot going for them. For most people, a pond (or the prospect of one) is very appealing as a landscape feature.

Of course, with the good often comes the bad. Can you fill one in?

You can simply fill in a pond on your property if it will work better for your lawn design. There are many reasons the filling in a pond may be the best plan for someone’s yard. The process can be done by a homeowner as a DIY project or hired out to a professional crew.

While nature is truly a marvel, some aspects of a pond’s ecosystem might not be so pleasant. Mosquitoes, for instance, are a problem that can take root in your pond if you’re not careful. These annoying critters breed very fast and can potentially carry many diseases that affect people and animals.

That’s before we even mention the bacteria that may be in the water itself. Harmful E.coli is particularly common in landscape ponds and it can easily be picked up by pets or kids.

A pond is also a potential drowning hazard, especially for young children. Some parents may opt to simply remove the pond to avoid the need for constant supervision.

Finally, a pond might simply be taking up too much yard space. Perhaps you want to extend your house or build a new shed, but your pond is in the way. What can be done?

You can fill in a pond and there may be many reasons to do it.

If you are in the market for a good pump to empty or fill your pond, I recommend this one from Amazon.

Best Way To Fill In A Pond You No Longer Want

The most important part and the hardest part of filling in a pond is the physical labor. If you are up to it there is a straightforward process that any homeowner can follow. If you have health problems, be sure your doctor signs off on your plans.

The best way to fill in a pond is to relocate any wildlife, use the pond’s water pump to empty the water, clean out the remaining material, remove the liner, and use gravel and soil to ensure the ground is solid and won’t sink. Once the pond is filled in you can landscape the area as normal.

To see more great articles like this one, read one of my others…

Relocate Pond Wildlife

Well, the first step is to examine the pond for fish, frogs, turtles, and any other creatures you might want to relocate. Fish should be moved to bowls or aquariums or other freshwater bodies.

Pump Out The Water

Once the wildlife has been removed, you can begin pumping water out of the pond. This is done using a pond pump. If your pond was professionally installed, it ought to have one. 

Normally, pond pumps are used to circulate water in the pond to prevent it from going completely still. A submersible pond pump will have an inlet (suction) tube and an outlet (ejection) tube.

To begin pumping, position the pump at the deepest point of the pond. Take note of the pump’s head height capacity, which is usually found in the instruction manual. Head height capacity is a value that represents a pump’s capacity to push water upwards before it switches off. 

If the depth of the deepest point in the pond is greater than your pump’s head height, the pump will switch off automatically and you will be unable to pump. You will have to choose a shallower point or place the pump on top of a platform to minimize the height of the water outlet.

The outlet tube should be placed out of the pond and into the garden or some other water collection vessel. The water will then be moved from the pond to the end of the outlet tube. Use buckets to scoop out any water the pump cannot reach.

Remove Remaining Material

Next, you will have to shovel out all the remaining mud and sludge. A lot of ponds have different decorative rocks, ornaments, or plants at the bottom, which should also be picked up. However, do not place this debris far away, as it will come in handy later.

Take Out The Pond Liner

Below the mud and rocks lies the pond liner, which is a large impermeable sheet (usually made of plastic). Use a shovel to remove any remaining mud and gravel before slowly and carefully removing the liner from what is now, essentially, a hole in the ground.

Backfill The Hole

Once the pond liner is out, you will have to fill in the hole. You can begin shoveling back all the gravel and sludge into the hole. Throwing in larger debris will help speed up the process. 

After you’ve covered about ¾ of the hole with large rocks, add more small gravel on top until the big rocks are completely out of sight. Walk on top of the gravel several times to pack it in place tightly.

Topsoil And Sand

Finally, you must add a layer of topsoil or sand. You can even use more gravel if the surrounding area has landscaping gravel. If you’re using gravel, we highly recommend placing a layer of landscape fabric underneath first to prevent the growth of weeds. The fabric must be nailed to the ground and rolled over the former pond to cover it completely.

If you’re using soil and hoping to grow a lawn or a garden over the pond, there is no need for landscape fabric.

Use a rake to spread your chosen topping evenly. Again, walk across the soil/sand/gravel to pack it in.

Once the pond is covered, you can go on to landscape the area as you see fit. 

Of course, if the DIY route isn’t your thing, you can always hire a professional pond drainage company to do it for you. These companies work efficiently and have full knowledge of any laws and ordinances governing this.

Do You Need A Planning Permit To Fill In A Pond?

Ponds may be a point of contention between landowners and local or even state authorities. 

Installing a pond may require you to go through a fair bit of red tape, depending on its purpose and proximity to year-round streams. Again, a professional company will handle any permits needed for you.

Draining a pond, however, does not require permits in most cases. However, if you happen to (negligently or intentionally) drain your pond water onto a neighboring property, you may be held liable if this leads to harm, damage, or even inconvenience to the property owner.

If draining your pond could affect public property or a public water source, you may be required to obtain a permit. Such issues are often dealt with at state level, with California being particularly touchy.

We recommend that you at least consult local environmental impact assessors to go over the potential ramifications of draining your pond. Finding out that you needed a permit after the fact could see you penalized.

The Final Touches On Filling In A Pond With Dirt…

There you have it. Though it sounds like a simple process, I would advise those that are out of shape, have health problems, or lack the tools to hire it out to a professional crew. They will make quick work of something that could take you up to a week to accomplish.

If you are up to the task, the difficulties involved are not technical in nature like plumbing or electrical work. It just takes some tenacity and a lot of elbow grease.

Here are some of my other articles…


Mathew Booe

Mathew has worked in landscaping professionally for over 10 years. He is a grandpa and frequently interviews other experienced landscapers and lawn care experts who are also grandpas for these articles.

Recent Posts