Summer Pond and Pool Safety

Nothing sounds better when it is 90 plus degrees outside than a quick dip in the backyard pond. Ponds (and pools) are common on farms and residential properties throughout Putnam County. In our excitement to enjoy the water, we can often forget some basic safety rules that apply to both. It is best to be prepared for a possible emergency situation, as time is of the essence in water rescue. The following safety tips are intended to minimize accidents and keep everyone safe in and around the water this summer.

If a pond is used for swimming, you will want to collect a water sample each spring to determine water quality. A certified lab will look for the presence of E. coli bacteria that could potentially cause human illness. Call the extension office for a list of water testing labs.

It is a good idea to restrict entrance to your property and the pond by posting signs that say No Trespassing and/or Keep Out. Young children will not be able to read these signs, so fencing and gates might need to be installed (when feasible), especially if the presence of young children is a concern. Check local codes for any fencing and/or depth restrictions.

While not all ponds are intended for swimming and recreation, every pond and pool should have a safety or rescue post near the edge of the water. A rescue post should be maintained year-round and contain the following items:

  • A life ring or buoy that is secured to a nylon rope. The rope should span the width of the pond or pool. Hang the buoy and rope on the post.
  • A 10 to 14’ aluminum or PVC pole mounted to the rescue post. This lightweight pole can be used to reach someone who is floundering in the water.
  • An air horn or similar device to alert others of an emergency.
  • A sign with emergency contact information and pond rules.
  • Other items, such as life preservers, as needed.

This safety equipment can also be used to rescue someone who has fallen through thin ice on the pond in the winter months.

Provide swimming instruction for all children and never allow anyone to swim alone. Adults and anyone supervising swimmers should have CPR and water rescue training.

Identify the depth of the water at various locations in the pond and indicate dangerous areas. Ropes and float lines can be used to mark the transition from shallow to deep areas in both ponds and pools.


Ponds can also pose significant hazards from field runoff of pesticides and fertilizers as well as physical debris. Evaluate pond edges for rough surfaces and remove any physical hazards that could injure someone, such as broken glass, ragged rocks, etc. In some cases, entrance areas and steep edges may need to be gently sloped to allow easier exit from the water. Ponds with significant vegetation, sediment or debris may need to be dredged to restore its quality.

Landowners should also ensure that their pond is covered with liability insurance. While Ohio law provides significant liability protection for farm ponds, artificial conditions that are not normally expected in a pond (such as a diving board or floating dock) can create liability issues. Contact your insurance agent for coverage related to your pond.

For additional information, please contact the Putnam County Extension office at 419-523-6294, by email at, or stop in at 1206 East Second Street in Ottawa. We will also have a display next week at the Putnam County Fair in the Merchant’s building, so plan to stop and see us! You can also find us on Facebook by searching for OSU Extension Putnam County.