The Benefits of
Having a Pond
Well-designed water gardens are surprisingly water efficient. Because ponds continuously recycle the same water, they actually conserve. In fact, a pond in your backyard will use less water than grass planted on the same site. Non-native lawns require 3 to 4 times the amount of water than a pond with the same surface area.
Water conservation is certainly important in our Southwestern high desert. Yet the main benefit of having a water garden is not conservation! It is the positive, soothing effect that water has on the mind and soul. A pond creates the visual and acoustic atmosphere of well-being and peace. This is what makes them so wonderful! In a land that cries for rain, few things can enhance the ambience of your home like a water garden.
The sound, motion, and cooling effect of water in the landscape has universal appeal. In desert scenario, a pond offers relief, a pleasant escape, in contrast to the dry, spare reality of our arid surroundings. Adding a water garden to such an environment creates a blend, a complimentary balance of wet and dry, of cool and hot, of luxuriant and austere. A pond gives you a little corner of magic and tranquility.
Ponds Recycle Water
How a pond is sited, designed, and planted will have a direct impact on its use of water. Well-designed ponds simply recycle water. In general, you add water only to replace evaporation. There are many ways to reduce evaporation and water use. And if your pond has a few errors… you can make it more water efficient by adapting whatever you can of the following suggestions.
First, build your pond with a water-tight material. The flexible EPDM pond liners are absolutely the best choice for this. Both concrete ponds and pre-forms are vulnerable to cracking and leaking due to freezing and thawing throughout the year. Pond Liners will flex, and they come with a 20-year guarantee.
Ideally, a pond in the desert Southwest should be sited to receive about 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight during the spring and summer. (The minimum is 3 to 4). Aquatic plants love sunlight, yet this middle range of light enables you to plant with the full range of aquatics. Provide a windbreak near a wall or structure or low-to-medium height landscape
plantings. This is especially important with higher waterfalls to prevent water loss. Locate shallow running streams in areas with shade protection. Avoid locating shallower ponds in total full-sun sites.
Design your waterfall lower to the ground, yet still in scope and balance to the size of your overall pond. Limit the splash to a minimum, while keeping an ear out for a water sound that is pleasing to you. Avoid oversplash by making sure your pump is not too powerful for the water feature. If it is too powerful, you can “tee” off of it for total flow control. (We have complete plumbing assemblies for larger pumps available at Shady Lakes.) A water depth of 2 feet cools the water, reduces evaporation, and prevents algae growth. Go deeper in full-sun sites (and significantly deeper with Koi ponds).
Smart water use involves adequately planting your pond. To reduce evaporation, the water’s surface should be about 75% covered by plants. Water lilies are the best choice, with their broad leaves and colorful flowers. Floating leaved and very short growing aquatics such as water hyacinths have been shown to reduce evaporation by 10%. Snowflake, floating heart, shellflower, water clover, parrots feather, and sensitive plant are various surface-growing options. Tall, broad-leaved water plants will increase water loss.
Other thoughts…Install an automatic refill with a float valve to prevent flooding. Wash out your filter pads into your garden. (Your flowers will love this!) Drain and clean your pond in early spring, using the water to irrigate your landscape. Then set up the proper balance of plants, fish, scavengers and filtration. Your pond will stay clear, and you won’t be tempted to make any unnecessary water changes.
Working With What You‘ve Got…
The Best Case Scenario is prevention with excellent water garden design. Yet suppose your beloved pond breaks a few rules? Then let’s work with what you already have. Make adjustments as indicated above as much as you can. We all learn from each pond that we build. (And it’s a great reason to build a second pond!)