When you’ve decided that a fountain, reflecting pool, fish pond, or waterfall is just right for your landscape, you need to answer some basic questions as to the position, orientation to the sun, and availability of utilities.

Site selection involves a balance of functional and aesthetic considerations. How will the water effect look and sound from your most common viewing place(s)? Happily most can be situated in such a way as to be conveniently viewed from the walkway, kitchen, livingroom, patio, or other frequented spot. Likewise, thought must be given to the placement of equipment, if any is to be used. Often pumps, filters, and related gear can be situated below ground in valve or utility boxes or submersed to mask their appearance and noise. With a little ingenuity your fall or stream can disguise your pump noise.

Site considerations have to also include considerations of future maintenance. For the most part, water effects should be near the home, near a wall to reduce spray, splash, or evaporation by wind. If the pond has living things in it, placing it out of the way of the elements will cut down on temperature change and help keep the system stable. Most aquatic plants used in ponds; lilies, lotus, water lettuce, hyacinths, papyrus, horsetails, iris, and others to be covered in a future article, do best in full sun. Therefore a southerly, open exposure is preferred for a planted water effect. The less sun the better for those systems where no live plant material is to be grown. You might consider a lath or screen shelter over your water effect as an adjunct to algae control and to keep out leaf litter.

Runoff and drainage — When building a water effect and trying to plan on keeping it clean you should think of drainage of the feature as well as rain or irrigation runoff getting into it. What will happen if the basin should dump completely? Will it flood your neighbor’s property? Rain on the ground or from the roof should not flow into your feature, unless this is planned for, as noxious chemicals (such as lawn fungicide and roof tar oils) can be introduced with devastating results to plant and animal life. Most times runoff and overflow can be easily controlled with the use of existing slope and drainage of the property. To drain your system it may be advantageous to locate the water above grade near a sewer clean out, canyon, or street gutter. Some people hook up their water feature discharge lines to existing irrigation.

Proximity to existing electrical and water supply is important. Check with your local building codes as to set-back easements, and to see if you can use inexpensive “romex” or PVC shielded conduit to a new junction box to run your possible pump, lights, or timebox.

For refilling, most people simply top off their water levels from time to time while watering their landscape. Alternatively, you can install a floating check valve to a pressurized water source. We’ll discuss these in future articles about construction and maintenance.

Every landscape can benefit from a well designed and well built water effect. Careful, planned placement can go a long way to insure maximum utility and minimum care.