Ponds & Waterfalls: Water Living

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We can’t live without it. Water is the very source of life That is why we are so strongly attracted to it. Maybe because we cannot live more than a few days without water, we want to have it close by. Most people would like to live next to it, whether in the form of a stream, river, lake or ocean.

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough bodies of water to go around for everybody, even for those who can afford living near them. The price of beach front property reflects the fact that it is scarce and in high demand. Even for those fortunate enough to own such property, there is a major trade-off and a good share of disadvantages.

Who wouldn’t like to have a water garden on their property, or a flower and vegetable garden, or even a wonderful orchard with oranges, apples, plums, peaches, lemons and avocado? Maybe a corral with a horse or two. So much for thinking about a garden with most ocean front property. You’re lucky if you have enough land to be able to walk between the houses!

We can now see why water gardens with waterfalls and ponds are becoming so popular. If you can’t take your home to the water, just bring the water to your home!

Why is it so peaceful, yet still invigorating at the beach? Is it the sight or sound of the ocean waves, the smell of the salt water? You may be surprised to discover that the actual feelings of peace, relaxation, stress, and anxiety release has little to do with the sight or sounds or smell of the ocean. Extensive research has shown that moving water puts additional negative ions into the air. Breathing this supercharged air has an extremely positive effect on our body. The ocean creates the greatest quantity of negative ions of all moving water.

Therefore, it has the most beneficial effects on our moods while drawing the largest crowds. For the same reason, waterfalls create such pleasant and relaxing environments. You have probably noticed how wonderful the air smells and feels just prior to, during and after a rain storm – again negative ions.

For a fraction fo the cost of ocean or lake front living, almost every homeowner can reap the benefits of a waterfall and pond in their back yard. Ranging from an atmosphere of intimacy to one of grandeur, it’s whatever the budget can endure. Virtually everyone can own a portion of the best that nature has to offer. There are as many different varieties, shapes and sizes of waterfalls as there are rocks. Consequently, with a pond design of your choice, no two ever look the same and they provide a natural individuality for each homeowner.

Waterfalls can cascade into koi ponds, a stream, swimming pool, spa or simply spill through a rock-covered grate into a subterranean catch basin, from where it gets pumped and recirculated. This type of backyard pond design is great for someone with small children, since it eliminates the need for a hazardous pond. It’s also perfect for someone with a very small yard or for those looking for little or no maintenance.

The soil removed in excavating a pond can be utilized to create a mound or berm to provide elevation for a cascade. A waterfall can pass through terraced retaining walls on its way down to a pond at ground level. By passing through rather than over the top, it will give the impression that the waterfall always existed and the retaining wall was constructed later on either side.

A backyard pond not only provides allure and charm to your property, it is as though you own a part of the Discovery Channel. The pond’s occupants provide a never-ending and forever changing source of entertainment and education. From the antics of a pair of acrobatic turtles to the male crayfish, claws clashing and gnashing over the prize of a fair lady, each day becomes a new chapter in the life of your pond. Are you the type that might say, “I don’t ever want to own fish!” and then eventually end up with several, even giving them all names? I’ve seen this happen over and over again, because pond owners become personally attached to the inhabitants of their water garden pond as if they were family members or pets.

At night a well-designed backyard pond becomes a whole new adventure, especially if you have built-in lighting. The cascading, splashing water against the lights create an amazing symphony of light and sound. Dancing light reflected on the surrounding rocks, plants, fence or house becomes hypnotic and mesmerizing. Most people only experience this atmosphere at expensive hotels or resorts. Now you can own the same experience in your own back yard..

If you are considering a water feature as an investment in your property, may I add several words of caution. Down the road, these may save you the heartache, sorrow and aggravation of dirty, murky, green, smelly water, sick or dead fish, leaky pond or waterfall, or high maintenance and energy costs.

1. Take your time.

2. Plan it out.

3. Research the subject thoroughly.

4. Seek out an expert in the field. A few years of experience are important.

5. Make sure the expert is licensed and bonded.

6. Accept only concrete and steel rebar construction. Never use a pond liner. Proponents of pond liners will claim there is a 40 or 50 year warranty on the liner. Not true! It’s only true if you leave the pond liner in the box. It would work only in a perfect world – where there were no gophers, squirrels, chipmunks, rats, tree roots, sharp rocks, pebbles or other such objects. Once you have a hole, it is impossible to find. Even a pin-hole will allow 5 gallons of water per day to pass.

7. Do not use submersible pumps. They are inefficient and expensive to operate and are difficult to maintain. Debris collects in them, requiring frequent cleaning. Submersibles can leak oil that may kill the pond inhabitants or, worse, short out and create a shock hazard.

8. Use a biological filter to help eliminate nitrates and nitrites from the water. (I recommend a pressurized back-flushable filter, not a gravity flow.)

9. Install a skimmer for removal of surface leaves and debris.

10. Use two anti-vortex drains on the bottom of the pond for suction line to prevent whirlpools and fish or turtles from being ****** into the drain.

11. Make sure your pond is a minimum of three feet deep to regulate water temperature in the summer months and to discourage herons and raccoons from dining out.

12. Build caves and ledges for turtles and fish to hide in.

13. Install an ultraviolet light to kill bacteria that cause smells and pathogens that kill fish and algae spores that create green water.

14. Do not use mechanical auto-fill valves; only use an electronic one like the AquaFill System. It does not stick or malfunction – thus preventing pond overflow and dead fish from chlorine poisoning.

15. Use plenty of water plants in the falls and pond. They provide extra oxygen and food for the fish and act as natural filters, utilizing the nitrate nitrogen in the water.

16. Use a high-efficiency, out-of-pond pump that conserves energy. By operating it 24 hours a day, a high-quality biofilter (such as one made by Aqua Ultra Violet) will receive a continuous flow of oxygenated water, which the anaerobic bacteria require in order to live. The bacteria are essential for breaking down hydrocarbons, nitrates and nitrites in the water.

17. Make sure you have proper drainage around the pond and waterfall so run-off from the rain storms does not enter the pond and contaminate it with silt, fertilizer, pesticides, etc.

18. Learn basic pond maintenance. (An ounce of prevention is worth a [pond] cure.)

When I say “everyone should have a waterfall,” I’m not simply promoting my life’s passion. Considering how much enjoyment a water garden and waterfall can give you, dollar for dollar, cubic foot for cubic foot, hour for hour, it is your best buy for many long, healthy and happy years to come.

From my experience with hundreds of pond owners in San Diego, I have discovered that the money spent on a well designed garden pond and waterfall will surely bring you more long term pleasure and joy than anything you ever purchased in your life.

Living is not truly living without water.

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