Farm Ponds


        Ponds began to proliferate within the Brandywine watershed primarily during the second half of the 20th century, partly driven by federal incentives to farmers. Heightened concerned with soil loss at the time of the dust bowl (Fig. 9) led Congress to enact legislation creating the Soil Erosion Service within the Dept. of Interior in 1933. Two years later the service was moved to USDA and renamed the U.S. Soil Conservation Service (SCS).
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Fig. 9.Black Sunday (April 14, 1935) has often been credited as the event it took to convince Congress that something needed to be done to stop the loss of topsoil during the dust bowl.


        One portion of the SCS’s efforts involved assistance in farm pond construction, used in part as a “carrot” providing access to farms and facilitate other advice concerning land use. Tuttle (2008) has estimated that the SCS assisted in the design of approximately 2 million ponds in the U.S. during the period 1945-1975. In 1969 alone 46,500 ponds were built with SCS technical assistance (Simms 1970), and with financial support from the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (later to become the USDA Farm Services Agency). The SCS was renamed the Natural Resource Conservation Service in 1994.
        Federal support, initially provided to build ponds for a wide variety of purposes including recreation and wildlife habitat, became increasingly restricted to requests for irrigation or water supply in the 1970s, in part because of concerns that pond construction was replacing wetland habitat. Requests for assistance in pond construction are still fielded by NRCS staff, typically in spring, but the assistance typically does not receive a federal cost share incentive.
        Many farm ponds still dot the Brandywine landscape today (Fig. 10a). Indeed, in more agricultural portions of the watershed ponds may be found on nearly all farm properties (Fig. 10b).
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Fig. 10a-b. (a) Farm pond in West Brandywine Township. Pipes, barely visible on t he left bank, are used to provide water for crops. (b) Aerial view of a portion of Honeybrook Township, with ponds outlined in blue.