Wonders of water

October 31, 2018 -  By

The outdoor living boom has created demand for water features to swell in recent years.

“People are drawn to water and naturally enjoy sitting by and listening to it,” says Demi Fortuna, director of product information at Atlantic Water Gardens, a water feature manufacturer based in Mantua, Ohio.

Water features can be a smart add-on for many landscape contractors. There are several types—even some that integrate extras, such as LED lighting and app-controlled settings.

“Offering water features is a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition,” says Jennifer Zuri, marketing communications manager at Aquascape, the St. Charles, Ill.-based manufacturer of water features, water gardens and ecosystem ponds.

We talked with three water feature suppliers—Kip Northrup, owner and president at Blue Thumb, based in Saginaw, Mich.; Fortuna; and Zuri—to get the scoop on the types of water features available.

Fountain (Photo: Blue Thumb)

Photo: Blue Thumb


Definition: An ornamental structure that’s supported by an underground basin reservoir structure that holds water and a recirculating pump. The ornamental piece sits on top of the basin reservoir system and can be made from a variety of materials, such as stone, metal, concrete or resin.

Installation difficulty: Easy.

Installation time: Two to six man-hours.

Maintenance: Fill evaporated water loss, which can be accomplished through a garden hose or automatic fill valve. In colder areas, contractors can winterize by removing the pump.

Price tag: $300-$500 retail; $1,500-$2,000 installed.

Popularity: High.

Target customer: Mix, heavily residential.

Water feature wisdom: Avoid implementing sump pumps from big box stores; they’re designed for intermittent duty and don’t last as long.

“I encourage contractors to put a fountain on every project because (they) don’t break the budget of the overall project.” —Kip Northrup

Formal spillway (Photo: Atlantic Water Gardens)

Photo: Atlantic Water Gardens

Formal spillway

Definition: A stainless steel or metal spillway or spout fits into a newly constructed or existing wall. Water flows from the visible spout or spillway through a narrow half-inch lip. A basin collects the water at the bottom of the wall, and a pump recirculates it.

Installation difficulty: Easy to moderate.

Installation time: Three to six man-hours.

Maintenance: Clean off debris that falls into the basin. Insert a monthly bacterial application to keep water fresh. Contractors can winterize by removing the pump.

Price tag: $1,000 retail; $2,500 installed (excluding price of wall).

Popularity: Moderate.

Target customer: Mix, heavily commercial.

Water feature wisdom: These features can be installed in outdoor living areas, as well as pools.

“Profitability is very high. The wall itself is already a high-ticket item. For a modest investment, you can add water to the wall.” —Demi Fortuna

Pond-free (Photo: Atlantic Water Gardens)

Photo: Atlantic Water Gardens

Pond-free water feature

Definition: A waterfall and stream dump down into a bed of gravel with a system underneath that recirculates the water. No opportunity for fish, limited opportunity for plants.

Installation difficulty: Moderate.

Installation time: 15 to 20 man-hours.

Maintenance: Refill evaporated water. Input algaecide, as needed.

Price tag: $1,000 retail; $3,500-$6,000 installed.

Popularity: Moderately high.

Target customer: Mix.

Water feature wisdom: Machinery is something to consider with any of these jobs, since many involve moving multiple-ton boulders.

“You still get the sights and sounds of a water feature without the maintenance and upkeep of a pond.” —KN

Pond (Photo: Aquascape)

Photo: Aquascape


Definition: An open body of water that’s naturally balanced. Incorporates fish, aquatic plants, waterfall and mechanical skimmer.

Installation difficulty: Difficult.

Installation time: 30 man-hours.

Maintenance: Fill evaporated water, add water treatments weekly, clean out skimmer box.

Price tag: $1,000 retail; $5,000-$6,000 installed.

Popularity: Low to moderate.

Target customer: Residential.

Water feature wisdom: Locate the waterfall and skimmer on opposite sides of the pond. Consider permits and potential support structures that lie beneath the pond, as the depression of the pond may be steep or stepped.

“In many ways, (ponds) are more charming than other water features because of the biology involved.” —DF

Sarah Webb

About the Author:

Sarah Webb is Landscape Management's former managing editor. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Wittenberg University, where she studied journalism and Spanish. Prior to her role at LM, Sarah was an intern for Cleveland Magazine and a writing tutor.

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