A cooling pond is a man-made body of water primarily formed for the purpose of supplying cooling water to a nearby power plant or industrial facility such as a petroleum refinery, pulp and paper mill, chemical plant, steel mill or smelter. Cooling ponds are used where sufficient land is available, as an alternative to cooling towers or discharging of heated water to a nearby river or coastal bay, a process known as "once-through cooling." The latter process can cause thermal pollution of the receiving waters. Cooling ponds are also sometimes used with air conditioning systems in large buildings as an alternative to cooling towers.
The pond receives thermal energy in the water from the plant's condensers and the energy is dissipated mainly through evaporation. Once the water has cooled in the pond, it is reused by the plant. New water is added to the system ("make-up" water) to replace the water lost through evaporation.
Many such ponds have secondary outdoor recreational purposes that include fishing, swimming, boating, camping and picnicking. The warm waters are frequently used as a fish hatchery.