Locate an area where standing water exists and aquatic plants, such as cattails, rushes, willows or pond cypress are thriving. A wetland area may also indicate a pond is possible. Check with your local Natural Resources Department or Conservation Service's Soil Survey to determine if your soil is suitable for pond construction. If you're unsure that the location is right, dig a test hole. Keep in mind that even a test hole could require a permit.
Contact your local government to determine what kind of permit is required to dig. Additionally, contact your local utilities (natural gas provider, electric company, etc.) to find out if gas pipes or electrical lines are buried in your prospective site.
Dig a test hole to the pond's projected depth, using an auger or backhoe, to determine the depth of the water table. Ideally, the visible water level should be 2 or 3 feet from ground level. Since water levels will change seasonally, observe the test hole for one year, noting significant fluctuations. Cover the hole with a grate or fence as a safety precaution. Consider changing locations or building a shallow waterfowl pond if deep muck soils appear, as it yields poor water quality and weak side slopes.
Plan your design. Dig to at least 10 to 15 feet deep if the pond is meant for swimming, while a fishing pond should be 15 to 20 feet deep. Grade the banks of the pond no steeper than 3 to 1 (3 feet horizontal for every 1 foot vertical).
Contact at least three excavation companies for advice and estimates and select a contractor. Consider visiting several of their past projects to judge the quality and level of expertise. Have the pond dug to your specifications.
Plant the area surrounding the pond with native aquatic plants, such as canna lilies, pickerel weed and duck potato for shoreline retention and erosion control. Other benefits include a natural privacy buffer, space definition, climate control and wildlife habitat
Natural pond or not, you must post safety signs. Display those that show the depth as well as where life rings and the nearest telephone are. Check with your homeowner's insurance company to see if this requires changes to your policy.