Fall is a good time to inspect and maintain a dugout

Mowing and ensuring the float line is below ice level are good yearly practices, and warning signs are a must

Alberta Agriculture has a comprehensive guide to dugouts covering everything from design to maintenance.
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When inspecting your dugout, work from the outside in.

A fall inspection should start with a check of the area that feeds into the dugout, said provincial water specialist Dan Benson.

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

Any debris should be removed, and tree growth should also be discouraged near dugouts.

“Leaves falling off of deciduous trees will add nutrients to your dugout that’ll contribute to poor water quality,” said Benson. “Deciduous trees should be kept back 165 feet, or 50 metres, and conifers should be no closer than 65 feet, or 20 metres.”

An inlet structure, such as a gated culvert, should be inspected to confirm that it still operates properly.

“If you don’t have a method of controlling the flow of water into your dugout, you might want to consider adding this feature. The ability to choose what water enters your dugout is an important management tool that will improve your water quality and the lifespan of your dugout.”

Next, inspect the aeration system and confirm it’s working.

“You should also remove your aeration line by pulling it to shore,” said Benson. “Once on shore, check the soundness of the line and the check-valve. At this time, you should also inspect the diffuser to make sure that it’s working correctly. If not, clean it or replace it. If you don’t have a diffuser, you should install one.”

A diffuser located on the bottom of the dugout provides the best water quality.

If the system uses a floating intake, it should be inspected and cleaned. It should also be lowered to 1.25 to 1.5 metre so the intake line stays below the ice during winter.

“Remember that during winter, dugout aeration systems can result in open or weak areas in the dugout ice,” added Benson. “These conditions can be very dangerous for young children, pets, and people 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.”

For more information, consult a publication called Quality Farm Dugouts on the Alberta Agriculture website. For information on funding for construction of dugouts or other farm water supply projects, visit the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.

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