As a landscape designer in Sedona, I get asked often by clients considering a fountain about how much maintenance is involved. It seems that fountains often are left untended and dry up because the owners don’t want the  hassle of getting it up and running.  But there is a type of waterfeature that Sedona residents should consider for their landscape design.

Pondless waterfeatures include both the naturalistic boulder style ponds that have a waterfall as their main point of discharge into the feature as well as fountains that usually have a top central return line that allows the water to cascade down the sides or lower parts of the fountain.

Pondless waterfeatures are no different than a regular waterfall and pond except they do not have an exposed surface area of water that you would normally see. Instead, the water pools into a storage basin below ground where you cannot see it. The water still gets recirculated to the waterfall as a normal pond waterfall system. You can enjoy the sight and sound of running water without the downside that the surface of the pond area is normally associated.

The waterfall itself, with its cascading stream and gurgling sound of water over stones and gravel, is the most beautiful and favored part of any landscape design that features water as the focal point or theme. But some people are concerned about debris floating on the water surface or the safety of exposed water. Others may have space limitations.

A pond and waterfall is a natural feature unlike a more formal manmade fountain. Both provide the sound of water, but a waterfall with the sound of water that mimics the real sound in nature, is favored for its realistic, nature-like appearance.

All fountains and waterfeatures whether or not they have a waterfall component, need a basin of water where the pump takes the water back to the point of discharge. This may be underwater at the bottom of the basin area, or in the form of a skimmer at the surface of the water just like in a swimming pool.

Benefits of Pondless Waterfalls

1) Safety

A pondless waterfeature has no exposed water surface, which can be a gathering spot for falling leaves, attract mosquitoes and be a potential drowning hazard for small children or even rodents. Having no exposed water surface can give one peace of mind and can be left operating without worry anywhere in the yard.

2) Cost

Cost can be a important consideration when thinking about the kind of waterfall you may want to have. In most cases, the cost of a pondless waterfall will be lower than a pond, due to there being less labor, less rock, and other materials. Pump size is smaller because of less water to pump, thereby allowing for better efficiency and operating costs.  Because you are not creating an aquatic ecosystem, you do not have to run the pump 24/7.

3) Space Saving Design

The small size of the pondless waterfeature means you can create and enjoy a beautiful waterfeatures anywhere in your garden — even in a courtyard !. As long as there is nearby water and electricity, you’re good to go.

4) Maintenance

Taking care of your pondless waterfall is easier than a waterfall with a pond. Because you don’t have a body of water to capture leaves and debris, the pump’s filter will be clean less often. Because the underground reservoir is not exposed to the sun, it will not evaporate as much and reduce the amount of water needed to offset evaporative loss.

Most pondless waterfeatures are sold as kits that include the basin, the pump and plumbing. These basins have a lid that has small holes that allow water to flow through but not larger size gravel to fall through, essentially hiding it from view yet providing a sufficiently large volume of water as required for the pump to operate efficiently. I can speak with direct knowledge as we recently installed one in a Sedona courtyard as the focal point of the landscape design.

The basins have access ports that allow you to easily get to the pump for maintenance or to adjust the flow if equipped with a flow control valve. They may also have a second access port where the water leveler is usually placed, again hidden from view.

5) Creative Opportunities

A Pondless waterfeature kit can also allow the design of a variety of unique fountains to be built from objects that are not necessarily thought of as fountains. Since many fountains are self contained with their own basins, you are restricted to the entire design. Yet when using a pondless waterfeature basin, you can use vessels such as large ceramic pots or cored out pieces of stone as the main aesthetic feature of the fountain.

A large colorful ceramic pot already has a hole in the bottom, and so you simply feed the pump return tube into the pot, seal it with silicon and as the pot fills up with water, once it reaches the brim, it then overflows and cascades down the sides of the pot giving a subtle yet tranquil feel to the design.

Other devices and objects can be retrofitted in a similar fashion, so don’t be limited to just the off the shelf fountains, get creative!

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