The majority of water features are built around a change in level, whether this is a fountain, pond or stream there needs to be some mechanism to elevate water to the highest point of the system. If you are fortunate enough to have a natural watercourse that can be modified or diverted then this is the simplest and most environmentally sound option. In the majority of cases this change in level is provided by a pump;
The cheapest and simplest pumps are low powered centrifugal units which may use solar panels or be supplied from the mains. These tend to be plastic and are usually fully immersed , ranging in power and price from a 2 watt unit that will trickle water to a height of only 500-700mm costing less than €10 to 100w units that can lift water to several meters in larger volumes at over €200.
Pumps which need to push large volumes to greater heights tend to use stainless steel for their moving parts and consequently the price is higher, a good quality unit designed to lift to 15m and move 4500 litres / hour will cost around €400 or more.
all water features need to keep the water in the feature and limit losses other than evaporation, for this job synthetic plastic liners are most commonly used although waterproofed concrete is often a more flexible medium to work with. The main drawback with concrete is that settlement and thermal changes can cause small cracks to form which may allow far greater losses than you would expect.
Where stone is used to form waterfalls or channels it is a good idea to fit a liner underneath first as most stone is porous and if cement is used it rarely remains watertight without some kind of impermeable membrane.
The focus of many water features is often a statue or ornament. Most garden centres sell items with holes or pipes already inserted to allow water to be pumped through them but don’t be limited by what you can buy there. Almost anything can create a point of interest in a water feature, old boots, pieces of scrap metal, farm machinery and architectural salvage have all been used successfully. Anything from a great work of modern sculpture to a few bits of scrap can be a talking point, it actually costs very little to experiment.
Many gardens benefit from natural water but in its absence it is possible to create realistic streams using liners and pumps. By incorporating ponds at either end it is possible to totally disguise the lack of any natural water supply. It is however a costly business to install and run stream pumps, the average unit will cost around 10c an hour to run which may be acceptable if used infrequently or on a timer.
Once you have a stream you can think about putting a bridge over it. This is a great way to join spaces in a garden and creates viewpoints both from the bridge and of the bridge. Made of stone, wood or metal they can be visually very impressive and give the illusion of greater space than is actually used.
See our gallery for ideas.
There are some important things to consider when it comes to ponds;
This need not be the case, a well designed pond with suitable plants and where possible snails and other fauna should largely look after itself. They do of course respond well to a little help but once established they should need little maintenance. With a good balance of native plants a healthy pond will attract wildlife including the kind of insects which thrive on mosquito larva, it is a joy to watch damsel flies and dragon flies on a summers day. A well thought out pond will provide a point of interest in the garden and a healthy oasis for many of the creatures which gardens benefit from, we could all do with more frogs to eat the slugs which plague our vegetable plots!