We absolutely love to design and build streams, which we feel are an integral part of a water feature’s form and function. Before you start designing your own dreamscape, you should know what your capabilities are. All it takes to build an impressive stream is a little extra liner, rock, gravel, and pipe. Well, it’s not quite that easy, there are a few other things you must know before you get started.
Here are some things to consider before you start.....
Here are some tips from Aquascape’s own Ed Beaulieu
1. How high and far does the water have to go?
Sure it’s great to have a stream tumbling out of the mountains, but remember you have to pump the water up there first. The greater the combined height and distance equates to a greater amount of head pressure put on your pump. You may have to compensate for this by using a larger pump and increasing your pipe diameter to allow for a higher flow volume. This will change your costs somewhat and I would definitely recommend going with a high efficiency pump to help offset some of the electrical costs. Another option is to use multiple pumps and piping to supply a greater water volume. I prefer this second option whenever possible because it gives you more flexibility. You can shut one pump down without stopping the entire stream.
2. Increase your Reservoir.
One of the most frequent design flaws is having a large upper pond or stream going into a small lower pond. It should be the exact opposite; the lower pond should always be larger.
The reasoning behind it is simple. You need a large volume of water where your pump is to supply the water in your stream. This becomes crucial during times of pump maintenance or power outages.
For Example: A 10’ x 10’ pond with an 80’ stream 3’ wide coming down a 3’ slope.
• The pond surface area is approx. 80ft2, which equals 50 gallons in the top inch of water.
• The stream surface area is approx. 240ft2 or 150 gallons of water 1” deep, and the BIOFALLS™ holds 60 gallons.
The stream looks great and everything is running fine until we have a power outage.
• The checkvalve on the pump will keep the 60 gallons in the BIOFALLS™, but the other 150
gallons in the stream will continue to flow by gravity to the lower pond.
• The extra 150 gallons will raise and overflow the lower pond by at least 3”. When the power is restored, the pump will send 150 gallons or 3” of its water back up to the stream. The stream will be flowing, but the pond is now missing 3 inches of water. The water will have to be replaced in order for the pond to function at its proper level.
• By having a larger lower pond, the flooding could easily be avoided. The pond size I would recommend would be a 15’ x 20’ lower pond with an approx. surface area of 240 ft2, which is equal to the stream’s surface area. You will still experience some water loss, but it would be far less than that of the first pond.
Design your pond with holding areas or pools to help retain some water within the streambed.
3. An often-overlooked part of stream construction is the thickness of your waterfall stones.
Water will eventually seep through the foam joints if the pumps are off for prolonged periods of time. The water will slowly seep around the thick stone resulting in water loss equal to the thickness of that stone.
By using a thin stone the situation can be easily remedied.
If your only option is thick waterfall stones use the following method:
If your client is set against the concept of a large lower pond, simply incorporate the stream into the pond. Lets go back to our example pond and stream (see diagram to the left, pg.44) which is a 10’ x 10’ pond with an 80’ x 3’ stream with a 3’ slope.
4. The next part of stream design is basic but is still important to your success.
There are three basic scenarios that you will encounter.
A. Flat backyard
B. Slope going away from home
C. Slope going towards the home
A. Flat Backyard: This is easy to work with, you may need to bring in fill material if you want a fast moving stream. Otherwise do a combination of deep stream with fast upper stream.
B. Slope going away from home: This is more challenging and more expensive. You will definitely have to bring fill material to the site if you want a stream visible from the main viewing area. You must be very careful about fill compaction and retaining wall integrity. If done properly, it is an amazing transformation and well worth the challenge.
C. Slope going towards the home: This is the easiest and most natural looking. Simply shape and carve the hillside for the desired affect. The trick with this is to try and keep all soil on site. You may have to haul some away, but it will not be a problem as long as you make provisions ahead of time for it.
If you remember anything from this article, it should be, no matter what, never make a small lower pond with a large stream. Even though the client may have a great vision in their mind’s eye, you will be doing them a great disservice by not adhering to these few simple rules on stream construction. They are looking to you for the answers, even though they may not be exactly what they want to hear. Remember, your success is our goal, so call us if you need help with those answers.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed from just thinking of tackling a project on your own, don’t worry you’re not alone. But there are experts out there that can help. Check out the Certified Aquascape Contractor Locator CAC’s