Water. For sights and sounds there is nothing more soothing in a landscape setting than a reflecting pool, a pond, a waterfall, a fountain, or a stream.

With some careful thought, study, and planning all gardens can benefit from an attractive, well-built water effect. In future columns I will be offering suggestions and ideas to guide you through the considerations of site selection, design, construction, animal and plant selection, maintenance, and repair. For now let’s go through some of the rationale, justification, and philosophy of waterscapes.


Even with the high cost of labor and materials, water effects can be desirably cost effective. On the low expense end, vinyl liner ponds can be constructed and stocked with attention to “biological balancing” for as little as $2.00 per square foot. Compared with many types of landscaping, this figure becomes very attractive.

Construction costs for fiberglass in-ground or above-ground ponds; or concrete or shot-crete ponds need not be exorbitant. With some planning and labor on your part you’ll find they run about $5.00 per square foot. This includes pump, filter, rock work, fish, and plants. As an investment, water effects retain their value as permanent works of art.

Operations and Maintenance Costs

These need not be burdensome and are generally less costly than maintaining the same square footage of plants and lawn. If the system is well built, the pump is appropriately sized and engineered for the job you want it to do, and a planned minor upkeep maintenance program is implemented, your water feature will be a joy.

What about all the water you will use? There is much less water evaporated from a water feature than from an equivalent size area of lawn when you calculate evaporation and transpiration rates for the grass species. Also, how often do you water your pool? Even most irrigation systems that are moderately well designed will waste as much as 50% of the water they emit in the form of wind drifted mist and evaporation even before the plants get a chance to use it. Water vented from the pond for partial cleaning or changing purposes can be used for irrigation.

How much will the pump increase your electricity bill? That’s easy to calculate. As with other appliances you multiply volts times amps, which gives you watts and you pay by the kilowatt hour (or call your local electric company). With the correct set up you can keep those operations costs under control. Some technologies designed to keep operating costs low include: no pump; air-lift systems; low volume/low head pumps; two speed motors; and easily installed, low cost timers.


Will our system turn into a quagmire? Not at all. As you’ll find out in ensuing issues, aquatic systems can be made with low or no maintenance time and costs.


As the first piece of recorded writing in “Linear B Greek” reads: “All is Water”. There is a water feature well within the economic reach and aesthetic scope of each landscape.