Types of Water Features
By Elissa Sard Pollack
From simple sprays to waterfalls tumbling over enormous boulders, moving water is, well, moving. Not every backyard has the space for a feature reminiscent of Niagara Falls, but a little bit of water can go a long way.
From straightforward to elaborate, these popular possibilities animate any aquatic setting.
Sheetfalls. Elegant, thin walls of water can be integrated into the most basic or extravagant of projects. To produce a sheetfall, plastic or steel strips designed to spread water and to restrict turbulence create a film of water, giving a delicate, smooth look. These components range in size from four inches to dozens of feet across. Although the strips are generally straight, they can also be made to curve to a designer's specifications.
Planter/waterfall combinations. From simple terra cotta containers to custom creations made from hand-stacked slate, a planter that incorporates moving water can transform a backyard into a fairytale forest, an elegant Japanese garden, or whatever scene you wish to create. Even prefabricated units can resemble stacked stone walls with planters on top.
Another option is a cast stone waterfall planter, which looks like a birdbath. A potted plant sits in a bowl atop a pillar or small base, and water spills from the bowl into a pool or a lower tier of the planter.Planters combined with waterfalls often use sheetfall components. Other water shapes are possible, too.
Rock waterfalls. Some would argue that rock waterfalls should be considered among the simplest water features. And this is true if you opt for a prefabricated, one-piece unit that sits at the pool's edge. However, rock waterfalls can be very elaborate, too. Rocks with built-in fountains can rise out of the pool or surround it, transforming the setting into a secluded wooded watering hole. Huge indigenous boulders may be excavated and secured in place to create just the right flow. It should be noted, however, that natural rocks may have mineral content that could react with your pool water's chemistry, so stay vigilant with your maintenance routine. Manmade options are easier to control and clean than natural features, and they are often far less expensive. For only a few hundred dollars, you can buy a simulated rock waterfall designed to be integrated into a poolscape and its plumbing. Of course, you can also spend several thousand dollars on a larger, more realistic-looking model, thanks to synthetic rocks that can mimic mill stones, boulders, stacked stone, slate, sandstone and more.
Fountains, Streams and Sprays
Unique fountains. Fish, dolphins, mermaids, you name it. If it can accommodate a spigot, it can become a fountain. The right fountain can evoke a relaxing or happy feeling on its own, greatly enhancing the soothing sensation inspired by moving water.
Keep in mind that a fountain may be self-contained (it does not share water with the pool) or integrated (filtered, chemically treated, and perhaps heated pool water, may travel through it). A waterfall, particularly one that flows into a pool, typically does share water and plumbing with the pool. Make sure that you, your pool designer, landscape planner and the supplier of the fountain are all in agreement about the water source and its flow. And note that if you go with a self-contained unit, there are many do-it-yourself options available.
Trickling streams. Perhaps you want to create a rivulet leading from one part of your property to another. It may flow from a fountain in your front yard to the pool in the back; or, if you have a multitlevel pool, a stream may trickle over ground from an upper tier to a lower elevation.
Another possibility is to create a shallow riverbed effect in or near a swimming pool. This can be a great place for young splashers or for sunbathers. Like most moving water options, all it takes is a little inspiration and the right basic equipment to keep the water running.
Simple sprays. With the installation of a basic nozzle, water can trickle, shoot or gush out of a pool, into it, or both. Spray nozzles can be placed in pool floors to bubble up or shoot far into the air. They may also hide in shrubs or planters and send arcing or falling water into the pool.
A pool builder, landscaper or nozzle supplier should be able to recommend the right hardware to create the effect you envision.
No matter which kind of water feature you choose, one thing is certain: The sight and sound of moving water will change your outlook. It is one of Mother Nature's greatest gifts.