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The Way Water Was Intended: Clean, Healthy, Sustainable.

Roy Watkins president, Air-O-Lator Corp.

Clean, healthy aerated pond.
Photo: Courtesy of Air-O-Lator Corp.

Landowners, pond managers, irrigation specialists, and landscape contractors all have one goal in mind when it comes to maintaining water: keep it clean and healthy. Achieving those results while retaining balance and sustainability can be challenging when you take into consideration environmental factors.

Whether you are caring for a small community pond, an irrigation lake, or a body of water used for agriculture, the absolute most important factor needed in yielding a healthy and sustainable aquatic ecosystem is oxygen. Without adequate oxygen levels, the water condition will deteriorate and will not sustain itself as a healthy ecosystem.

Proper aeration and water movement are key elements. Aeration, or the amount of oxygen being transferred into the body of water, is the natural, ecofriendly way to care for water systems. The atmospheric air that attaches to the water happens instantly when the water breaks the surface. At this point, oxygen transfer occurs between the pond water and the air, breathing new life back into the aquatic ecosystem.

Proper water aeration.
Photo: Courtesy of Air-O-Lator Corp.

All aerobic organisms, from microscopic bacteria to the largest fish, must have sufficient levels of oxygen to live and thrive. Customers deal with "fish kill" when the water is not properly aerated and unhealthy. Poor oxygen levels cause fish to be susceptible to diseases, inhibiting growth, and ultimately, leading to death.

While it makes sense that fish need oxygen to survive, what is not always obvious is that low oxygen levels lead to the lack of helpful bacteria required to maintain the decomposition of organic material. If the organic material within a body of water does not break down, a chain reaction of deadly conditions begins. Levels of toxic waste increase causing the water quality to become unhealthy and not sustainable for aerobic life.

Too much algae growth creating an unhealthy pond.
Photo: Courtesy of Air-O-Lator Corp.

How do you know if your pond or lake is suffering from low oxygen levels? A foul smell or excessive algae are two good indicators that you have a problem. As an essential part of the ecosystem, a pond or lake without algae is void of life. Algae are living organisms and a keystone in the aquatic food chain. Producing 70 to 80% of the earth's oxygen, algae actually promote the presence of good bacteria, which is beneficial to keeping the ecosystem in balance.

But, as we know, everything is good in moderation. A pond or lake that is overtaken with algae is an indication of an imbalance within the water impoundment. It is not an indication that there is no oxygen present, but that the oxygen demand required to maintain a balanced water ecosystem is not up to par.

Aerating fountains utilized to add oxygen to a large body of water.
Photo: Courtesy of Air-O-Lator Corp.

Water managers utilize fountains or aerators, sometimes a combination of both, to keep water clean, healthy and if necessary, in optimal condition for irrigation purposes. High performance products that provide high oxygen transfer rates as well as moving large volumes of water come in all different sizes to fit varying water depths and surface area.

The pond and lake management industry has created standards and sizing recommendations for aerators and fountains but not all aerating devices are created equal. It is important to check that the manufacturer can provide substantiating standard oxygen transfer rate data and the water volume being pumped for mixing and dispersion. Installing a fountain that is not designed to pump enough volume will not adequately improve water quality.

Surface aerator
Photo: Courtesy of Air-O-Lator Corp.

Ponds and lakes with supplemental mechanical aeration can still have insufficient oxygen levels if the demand is greater than what the mechanical aerator can produce. This is known as Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), which is the amount of oxygen required for microbial metabolism of organic compounds in water.

Subsurface aerator takes oxygen to the pond's lowest depth along the bottom.
Photo: Courtesy of Air-O-Lator Corp.

Another popular misnomer is that all fountains are aerating. This is not the case. Some fountains are for aesthetics only. They do not produce enough water volume to benefit or improve oxygen levels and water quality for ponds and lakes.

Maintaining a healthy ecosystem also means conserving energy during the process. Many manufacturers offer devices that consume less energy than older models and LED light systems. In recent years, consumers have been asking how they can lower energy usage during the aeration process and the industry has answered with building more cost-effective products.

Every body of water is different and has its own characteristics, needs, and challenges. Oxygen is a vital condition for all the organisms living in the water and a key factor in keeping a healthy and ecologically balanced pond or lake.

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August 25, 2019, 5:44 am PDT

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