Retention and detention ponds are vital flood control structures, especially in areas dominated by a subtropic climate such as Houston. Every year, the Bayou City is pummeled by the North American monsoon, part of which traces over the Gulf of Mexico and right into Houston. Heavy precipitation is the norm here, which means runoff control must be the norm for commercial properties in the area.
Two of those essential runoff control structures are retention and detention ponds. You’ll see both in cities all over the U.S., but they’re extremely important for the Houston area.
Here, we’ll address what makes retention and detention ponds so important to the city.
What’s the Difference Between Retention and Detention Ponds?
First, a couple of definitions. Retention and detention ponds are generally designed to do the same thing – prevent flooding – but they go about it slightly differently. These differences are subtle, but that may determine whether a retention or detention pond is right for your project. Here’s a quick look at both.
- Detention ponds – Detention ponds prevent flooding by capturing high volumes of stormwater. They’re essential in any urban location where heavy precipitation is expected.Since they are only required for sudden bursts of heavy rainfall, detention ponds are designed to empty between storms and dry out. They’re designed with an outlet system that typically includes a riser and culvert, so water outflow is metered to control downstream flooding. By metering flow, detention ponds help control downstream flooding.Detention ponds are typically placed well away from area groundwater supplies to protect water quality.
- Retention ponds – A retention pond is a permanent feature, as it’s intended to always hold onto a certain level of water. They do not empty between storms, but retention ponds are also effective at capturing a modest amount of stormwater during heavy rain events. What they’re better at is controlling water flow through a city by acting like a series of buffers. Retention ponds may be developed with outflow mechanisms like a spillway, but outflow is intended to be gradual. And many retention ponds have no outlet structure at all, relying on evaporation and the soil to maintain steady water depths.Retention ponds are common throughout the Houston area, partly because the groundwater level is close to the surface along southeast Texas. A retention pond is easier to install in these areas.
What Do Retention and Detention Ponds Do For Commercial Properties?
Both retention and detention ponds are critical flood control structures, so both may be appropriate for a large commercial property. But for commercial property owners, they’re useful for a few more reasons, including:
- Protection from soil erosion and ground shifting – Floods are an obvious threat to developed properties, but even a small amount of excess water can cause an issue if it’s constantly present.If runoff is not controlled as it courses through the property, it will cause the soil to erode. This can be particularly problematic for properties that have undergone recent development, as there may not be enough vegetation in place to protect the soil.And if the ground does erode and shift, the resulting movement will threaten the stability of nearby foundations and other construction. Retention and detention ponds are effective at defending against this.
- Protection for paved areas – Concrete and asphalt are not designed to be constantly exposed to water. If runoff does pool on the pavement’s surface, it will steadily penetrate into the pavement’s deeper layers and chemically eat away at the binders that hold it together. The result is subsidence, potholes, and eventually the kind of base failures that cannot be solved by simple maintenance alone.The goal is to keep water from pooling on the pavement’s surface. Retention and detention ponds are a proven way to do this.
- Easier pest control – Pests gather where water gathers, and if water is gathering around your buildings, guess where the pests are going? By capturing excess water and keeping it away from those buildings, retention and detention ponds reduce the presence of insects and rodents in and around structures.
- Improved property appearance – Detention ponds aren’t curb appeal-boosting structures, but retention ponds can be. They serve a dual-purpose of controlling water flow and providing a permanent water feature for people to enjoy. If well-maintained, retention ponds can add significant value to a commercial property.
- Better water quality – Detention ponds are designed to fill and empty quickly, but retention ponds allow sediments and pollutants to settle at the bottom. This naturally improves water quality, and pond-dwelling vegetation also helps the process along.
How Houston’s climate influences drainage needs for commercial properties
Detention and retention ponds are sold on their ability to control runoff and flooding, and in Houston, flood control should be every property owner’s concern. Since 2015, there have been multiple once-in-a-century flooding events, including the single worst residential flooding event in the city’s history – Hurricane Harvey.
What’s concerning about these recent flooding events is that they were widespread throughout Houston and outlying areas such as Sugar Land, Katy and The Woodlands. Inside Beltway 8, even the most affluent neighborhoods and commercial districts were devastated by post-2015 floods.
There is nowhere for commercial properties to hide from Houston floods, and if recent history is a guide, the next catastrophic flooding event is possibly only a few years away. The best defense is efficient flood control.
Experienced Houston TX Site Developers are the Masters of Retention and Detention Ponds
Retention and detention ponds are valuable property protectors and add value if they’re developed properly. That means partnering with an experienced site development crew to oversee flood control projects. Expert dirt workers are professional site graders, shapers, and extractors. The most reputable Houston TX firms also have engineering expertise on hand for complex projects – those influenced by many factors, including the prevailing conditions at the project site, the soil’s condition, and the expected rate of water flow through the property.
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