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Checking the dugout should be on the winter prep list

Provincial water specialist offers his inspection to-do list and tips for protecting water quality

If you haven’t already, now is a good time to inspect your dugouts, says a provincial water specialist.

An inspection should start with a check of the area that feeds into the dugout, said Dan Benson.

“Make sure that this area is free of debris that might flow into your dugout,” he said. “A properly graded, mowed grassed waterway is an excellent best management practice that can reduce turbidity and nutrient-rich water from entering your dugout. Not only will it improve your water quality, it’ll extend the life of your dugout.”

You also don’t want trees right next to a dugout as falling leaves add nutrients and reduce water quality.

“Deciduous trees should be kept back 165 feet (50 metres) and conifers should be no closer than 65 feet (20 metres),” said Benson.

A gated culvert is a good feature to have and if you have one, it should be inspected to confirm that it operates correctly.

Also inspect the aeration system.

“Confirm that the pump is working. You should also remove your aeration line by pulling it to shore. Once on shore, check the soundness of the line and the check-valve.”

The diffuser should also be checked and cleaned (or replaced if not working properly).

“Also, check that the diffuser is located on, or near, the bottom of the dugout,” said Benson. “Research has shown that year-round continuous aeration with a diffuser located on the bottom of the dugout provides the best water quality.”

The operating system should also be inspected.

“If you use a floating intake, it should be inspected and cleaned. If possible, this is best done by pulling your floating intake to shore. Your intake should be lowered, so it is about four to five feet below the water surface. In most situations, this’ll give sufficient depth to provide water after the float freezes in the ice. You should also ensure that the intake line is weighted correctly, so it stays below the ice during winter.”

Finally, remember that aeration systems produce weak ice or open areas, which pose a danger to children and pets, and when snowmobiling at night.

“It’s essential to educate your children about these hazards and post the area with highly visible warning signs and a fluorescent snow fence around the open water area. For greater safety, it’s best if farmyard dugouts are fenced to avoid unauthorized access.”

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