You would probably be surprised how much you know that you don’t realize.
I think that this is especially true with nature.
Most of us have spent a fair amount of time outside playing in the mud, avoiding puddles, and ducking out of rain.
Because of this you probably have a better idea of the behavior of rain water than you might think.
Over the years I have noticed a few tell-tale signs of standing water that I use to identify standing water and I’ve made a list of them below.
I am only familiar with the signs of standing water here in the Chicagoland area, although some of this information might cross over into other climates.
Bentgrass loves wet and sunny locations.
Bentgrass can often be found growing in wide swathes all across the bottom of a turf ditch in a culvert stormwater system.
It is usually a little lighter and shorter than the surrounding Kentucky Blue, Rye, or Fescue and has really short roots that often get ripped out by a turning foot or lawn mower tire.
If you see Bentgrass, there are moist soils there.
I have included a photo of Bentgrass meeting Kentucky Blue at the top of this page, the Bentgrass is on the bottom half.
If there is dirt with nothing growing in it, something isn’t right.
The saying goes that “Nature abhors a vacuum,” and that is certainly true for soil.
If you see dirt with nothing growing and it hasn’t recently been cultivated, and isn’t under a Norway Maple, it probably gets standing water on it from time to time.
This can also be seen as very spotty lawn areas that have yellow weak grass stands trying to survive amongst the dirt.
If you see a lot of foot imprints or lawn mower tracks, the soils are moist there.
If you notice that there are swaths of soil, mulch, rocks, or other debris either missing, or in places it shouldn’t be, this was probably done by moving water.
A trail of debris can be helpful in showing the outlines of the high water marks for the moving water during the rain event.
This can also be seen as exposed root systems.
In the picture above you can see the right side of the tree has its roots exposed, while the left side does not.
This is caused be the reoccurring stream of water moving through during a storm but only on the right side; over time this removes the soil and exposes this part of the root system.
Most materials degrade much faster in wet conditions.
Concrete will absorb water and then crack in the freezing temperatures of winter.
Asphalt may crack due to its base failing with the added moisture in its freeze-thaw cycle.
If you see heaving or cracking hardscapes, there could be moist soils there, or sloppy contractor work, or heavy vehicles driving too close to the edges.
Look along the bottom of fences and posts.
Are the bottoms of wood fences or posts moldy and green?
Is there a metal post rusting a little bit off the ground?
This will happen naturally, but if the contrast between the bottom couple of inches and the rest of the material is drastic, there could be standing water.
If there are plants that you know like dry or medium conditions that are stunted, weak, and look like they are drowning…they probably are!
It can be difficult to tell between a drowning and thirsty plant, but looking to see if the terrain slopes towards or away from it can help to see if it is getting water surrounding it or running away from it.
Conversely, if you see water loving plants doing very well in a location where they normally don’t like, there is probably some water being directed to that area.
If you have any more standing water indicators I would love to hear them, especially for different geographic locations!