How to Construct a Sluice-Way for Your Yard

How to Construct a Sluice-Way for Your Yard

A sluice-way is a wooden trough that is designed to carry water from one area to another by letting gravity do the work. Natural springs or underground streams are great sources of water than often can be rerouted to a pond area or create a running water feature in your yard. If your elevation grades work to allow you to pitch your sluice-way downhill, the water can be moved for free without the aid of pumps for years and years at no cost.

I was lucky enough to have an underground water table that is so high in the ground that my basement has a year round stream running along the base of one wall in a concrete trough. This trough exits the basement through a four inch pipe to daylight about eighty feet or so away from the building. At the point where the pipe meets daylight, the pipe itself is approximately four feet above ground in a stone retaining wall. The area grades from that point slope down and away and generally end about ten feet lower where the land flattens out. The lower property has a small stream that winds it’s way to our eight acre lake. The stream is year round except for the very driest of summers. I have seen the stream dry only once in thirty five years and that was for only a few weeks or so. Over the years I have landscaped lawn areas from the house to the lake (approximately 750 feet) that provide beautiful walking areas. A few benches here and there, some shaped yews and flower pots with deer resistant plants and for me it is heaven in the summer time to just sit quietly and listen to the summer winds. My kids and grand kids have played here for years and have now begun to add their own touches to the property. One day while sitting, I stared at the pipe coming from the house basement and thought what a great way to create a free waterfall or small pond if only I could get the water over there! The idea of a sluice-way quickly became reality after a brief discussion with the wife and off we went to get building materials.

I decided to use pressure treated lumber for the sluice as it would last for many years and after a few years of running water through it, should not be harmful to plants or fish. I chose six inch wide by sixteen foot long boards as they were the longest the lumber yard carried in stock. I set up my saw horses and started to build my sluice. I built the bottom using two boards side by side making it twelve inches wide. Adding some short twelve inch long pieces to one side as braces provided added strength to keep it from sagging. Next the sides were made of one board each making the finished trough twelve inches wide and six inches deep. I used good galvanized screws for assembly as they will not back out over time and a bead of good silicone caulk at each joint would provide a good temporary seal between the boards.

Over time as the caulk aged and failed, dirt, leaves and other debris would seal the joints from inside making the sluice virtually water proof against leakage. Starting at the point where the water exited the basement drain pipe I set the first sluice with one end to capture the water and other aimed towards where I wanted to create a small pond and garden area. I found out later I had to add a baffle board at the water entry point to channel the water into the sluice when water flows were high enough to shoot out past the sluice way instead of just dropping into the sluice. I built a total of three sixteen foot long sluice ways and by zig-zagging them down the hillside actually moved the water almost forty feet horizontally from where it started out. It requires very little slope to get water to run. I was lucky enough to have a six foot high rock out-cropping that by placing the last sluice on top of the rock and by letting it hang out in mid air several feet, it created a six foot high waterfall that drops into a small fish pond I built below. I place goldfish in this small pond each summer for the kids to feed and watch. The constantly falling water from the sluice keeps the water well aerated and cool all summer long. My sluice-way has been in place now for about twenty years and except for an occasional removal of excess leaves and slight re-alignments has worked fine with no further maintenance.

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