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Water Q & A - Lagoon Water Levels

Lagoon, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights August 2018.
Lagoon photo courtesy of Carlyle Welch

Do you have questions about your private drinking water supply?  How about wellhead protection, including the management of your private sewage treatment system?  Send your questions by clicking on the 'Email Us' feature in the lower right corner on this web page. Questions will be addressed by Nebraska Statewide Extension Associate for Domestic Water & Waste Water, Becky Schuerman and/or other Extension Water Team staff. One question and answer will be featured each month on newsletter. 

Q: The water level in my lagoon stays at only about 2 feet. Is that a problem and how do I keep the water level higher?

Becky:  For residential lagoons to function at their full potential the water level should be a minimum of 2 feet and a maximum of 5 feet in depth. So, a lagoon with a water level at 2 feet is just on the edge of maintaining full functionality to provide treatment processes for household wastewater.

Low water levels in a lagoon is most commonly the result of the lagoon being “oversized” for current use within the home. Lagoons, like all wastewater systems in Nebraska, are required to be a certain size based on the number of bedrooms in a home. When the lagoon is built, the home may be fully occupied by a family and so there are more people using more water. As children grow and move away or if a home is sold to different people with different water use patterns, the lagoon may be somewhat larger than is necessary. 

Less commonly, low water levels can also be a result of a malfunction in the design of the lagoon or problems with maintenance of the lagoon such as allowing too much vegetation to grow up around the lagoon.  The vegetation can draw moisture out of the berms of the lagoon and make some, although not a large, impact on the water levels.  Certain vegetation such as duckweed or cattails can also grow on the surface or within the lagoon itself drawing water up into the plants and impacting the actual treatment processes of the wastewater within the lagoon.

Vegetation can be managed by a homeowner through careful chemical or mechanical removal of nuisance plants such as duckweed or cattails from the lagoon itself. It is imperative that you follow all directions and take safety precautions. Vegetation on the sides, or berms, of the lagoon is part of the proper function and maintenance of a lagoon. Mowing the vegetation to a height of approximately 6 inches can be done by the homeowner and should be done regularly.

If you suspect your low water levels may be from a structural issue within the lagoon or wastewater system you should consult with a certified wastewater professional.  Additionally, a certified professional may be able to examine your home system to make recommendations on use patterns for the specific system.  Otherwise, low water levels because of a change of water use within the home can be difficult problem to solve. If a lagoon stays at 2 feet in depth it should be functioning to treat wastewater. The biggest concern comes in the winter where you will need to spread out warm water use to ensure that the lagoon does not freeze solid during extreme cold periods. 

For more information on residential wastewater lagoon operation and maintenance visit: To find a certified wastewater professional in your area go to: Onsite Wastewater Treatment Facilities.

This article is based on original content by Meghan Sittler, former Nebraska Extension Educator. Updated October 2022. 

Image of Becky Schuerman, Nebraska Extension Associate
Becky Schuerman
Extension Associate, Domestic Water, Wastewater Management
Becky Schuerman is the Nebraska Extension Associate for Domestic Water/Wastewater Management. She has been in this role since 2019 and previously worked in the regulatory field for the State of Nebraska Public Drinking Water and Water Well Standards Programs for over 17 years. Becky is no stranger to working collaboratively with the Nebraska Well Drillers and Onsite Wastewater Associations, Nebraska’s NRDs, Nebraska Rural Water Association, Nebraska Section AWWA, the Groundwater Foundation, NDEE, UNL and EPA Region 7. Becky holds a Bachelor of Science in Ag & Natural Resources, is a graduate of the Nebraska Water Leaders Academy, and is working on her Master of Science degree in Natural Resources, Human Dimensions.

Contact Becky at:
Lancaster County Extension
444 Cherrycreek Rd Ste A
Lincoln NE 68528-1591