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Splashing Out During Drought

Splashing Out During Drought! by Danielle Dickinson

Drought and water restrictions have raised the level of concern regarding creating water features in home gardens. Many people are under the mistaken assumption that water features are a contradiction to water conscious gardening. While there is truth in the fact that large, cascading waterfalls and far spraying fountains are not particularly water efficient. The carefully planned water feature can save water!

Creating a water feature in your garden can be beneficial not only to the overall look of your garden but to the
environment! A properly designed, installed & maintained water feature can not only save water but create a haven for wildlife already struggling to find water in the drought.

Water Gardening Myths Debunked!

Water features use to much water

Consider how much water is required to keep plants, lawn or even pot plants alive. Apart from the initial fill of your water feature, a properly designed and constructed water feature will require just the occasional top up. It is a common belief that water features are connected to water mains and are constantly using water. A water feature should always have a pump and a sump or reservoir that recycles the water.

The bigger the feature the better!

There is no need to create the Trevi Fountain in your garden; with water a little goes a long way. Often a smaller feature such as a millstone, patio feature or container water feature strategically placed is more then enough to satisfy the desire for the look and sound of water in a garden.

Designing a water friendly water feature

The first step here is to check with local authorities before designing your feature. Local council often imposes
regulations that must be heeded. Container gardens are unlikely to require approval or be regulated by councils.

Things to consider!

1.Placement - it is best to site your feature away from wind and sun (unless using aquatic plants) to reduce water evaporation. Also consider the location of underground utilities eg. Electricity, Phone line, Gas etc.
2.Size - when designing wildlife ponds a larger body of water is easier to maintain than a smaller one. Container
features containing no wildlife or plants require only minimum amounts of water and can be kept clean with water treatments.
3.Containers: Container water features tend to have no wildlife or plants and therefore only require minimal
amounts of water and can be kept clean with simple water treatments.
4.Water depth - exposed shallow water heats up and evaporates quickly. For wildlife ponds (aquatic and plant
life) a minimum depth of 45cm is required. 
5.Splash - Splash causes water waste of criminal proportions. Consider features less likely to cause
splashing eg. Trickling waterfalls rather than Niagara Falls!
6.Shape - although the overall shape is a matter of taste, consideration should be given to the vertical aspects of your feature. Sloping sides (eg. beach effect) produces shallow, warm water that evaporates quickly. If creating a wildlife pond rocks can be used as platforms to allow wildlife access to the water.
7.Fountains / Water Jets - although fountain jets look great, a bubbler or spout can be just as effective and loses little or no water from your feature. 
8.Creeks and streams - can be wasteful. As the sun heats rocks and pebbles it warms the water resulting in
evaporation. If you must have a creek, consider locating it in a shaded part of the garden and making it deep enough to reduce splash.
9.Council regulations: Donít forget to check with local authorities before designing your water feature, as some
councils have regulations that must be headed.

Saving Water

It is imperative that your water feature is constructed properly and with water conservation in mind. Whether you feature is a small natural wildlife pond or a designer contemporary water feature mistakes can be made that will waste vast amounts of water, even without your knowledge. It is often wiser and less frustrating to call in the professionals at this stage to ensure proper construction!

Top Water Saving Tips

1.Plants - if you must site a pond in a full sun position it would be wise to use aquatic plants that float on the
water surface (such as lilies) to minimize evaporation by stopping the sunís heat.
2.Fountains - if you must have a fountain ensure that the pond/reservoir is large enough to catch the splash. It is best to avoid fountains that spray in the air altogether.
3.Pumps - use a submersible pond pump appropriate for the size and desired effect of your feature. Speak with a water garden specialist to size your pump correctly.
4.Eco Systems - create a balanced eco system in wildlife ponds with the aid of bio-logical filters etc to keep water clarity and eliminate the need to empty or partially empty the pond for cleaning.
5.Pets & Children - everyone loves water and this is especially true of pets and children. Children and pets love
to play in water features, wasting the water or worse still, causing leakage.
6.Leaks - proper construction should mean you have a leak proof water feature. Keep an eye on your water level for significant drops that indicate leaks that need attending to.
7.Timers - can save water and energy by running the feature only at times when you are present.
8.Wind Breaks - hedging or planting can be placed around your water feature as a wind break. This prevents 
unnecessary evaporation. Be careful to choose no-toxic and non-invasive plants.
9.Still Water - the soothing qualities of still water in a reflection pond can be just as effective as moving water. If keeping fish or plants use an oxygenator (air pump) as well as a pump to keep live giving oxygen in the water.
10.Topping Up - a catchment container for rainwater can be used to top up your water feature.
11.Pipes and Connections - make sure all pipes and connections are securely fixed to eliminate dripping pipes
12.Frog Ponds - are not only water efficient but help to protect declining frog populations. Frog ponds also attract other wildlife such as lizards, skinks and birds.

Some Great Ideas

Decorate around your water feature creatively with interesting objects that need no water at all, such as
rocks, bricks, gravel and deck areas.

Check your water feature regularly for crack, leaks and maintenance problems that may lead to water loss.

Consider using xeriscape (drought tolerant) plants such as Liriope around your water feature.

Install a pond rather than a bird bath - bird baths evaporate quickly and need constant re-filling. Ponds are
beneficial to more wildlife than just birds.

Artificial waterfalls will splash less than rock waterfalls as they have been manufactured to direct water

Use preformed ponds in small ponds to reduce the risk of liner pierce or concrete cracking.

Remember, aquatic plants donít need to be watered!

Add some life and soul to your garden!

Water features, rather than wasting water, generally use less water than any other part of the garden. A well planned and managed pond can be a haven for troubled wildlife in times of drought.

One of the nicest, not-to-be-ignored benefits of water gardening is purely psychological. Just when everything else seems dried-out and arid, your water garden can be a quiet haven of relaxation, your own backyard oasis.


Danielle Dickinson is an avid water feature enthusiast. She is a regular contributor to Gardening Magazines. Visit her website http://www.waterfeaturesonline.com.au for more information on Building and Maintaining any type of Water Feature as well as a huge range of water gardening products.

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