People who build small backyard ponds seldom think of them as hazards. However, if you don’t take precautions to keep everything safe, you may find out how hazardous they can be the hard way. Your pond was built for beauty and relaxation, but it never pays to be too relaxed around a body of water deep enough for a toddler to drown in.

The following is a list of things you need to think about and plan for:

1. Pond depth:  When building the edges of your pond, you can build in some safety features. If you build your pond with a 1’ deep ledge around the perimeter, a child who fell in would have a better chance of climbing back out. You might also think about placing some heavy boulders around the edge that a child could use to pull himself to safety.

2. Watch the kids at all times: You must never leave children unattended near a backyard pond. The same tragic events can occur in a small pond just as they do in swimming pools. If you have fish, you can be sure that every child for miles around will be interested.

Unfortunately, that same natural curiosity that makes them want to see the fish up close can tempt them to get too close to the edge of the pond. If they get close enough to fall in, they could hit their heads in falling, and even drown. It only takes 6” of water to cause a child to drown.

3. Plan to prevent slipping hazards: One of the easiest methods of keeping children from slipping into your pond is by making some rules and sticking to them. You should have a “no running” rule in place. If anyone runs, immediately send them home or back in the house and don’t allow them back in your yard until the next day. That will show them you mean business.

There are also physical actions you can take to prevent slippage. You can put a slip-resistant substance on the smooth edges around the pond. You can install railings. You can also talk with a local building official who will be able to give you pointers on reducing the slip hazard around your pond.

4. Comply with local building codes:  While you’re planning your water pond, take time to touch base with your municipal building department to make sure you’re meeting all of their building codes. Find out if you’re required to fence in the entire area. How large can your pond legally be? Are there other provisions you should make to comply with local codes? If you don’t follow code, it could cause you future hassles or heartaches.

Safety needs to be uppermost in your mind while you are planning and building your backyard pond. Take every safety precaution you can so that you don’t end up feeling needless guilt if something were to happen. You can make your water garden an enjoyable spot for family and friends. Don’t let a tragedy destroy the fun.