Building a Pond with Waterfall

A waterfall makes a very natural addition to a pond, with many ponds integrating one when constructed. (They can be added at a later date, but this poses many practical obstacles). It makes sense that having taken the step of introducing a pond into a garden, that the full potential of water is exploited – bringing the pond to life.

A water fall will handle more water than a water feature and will look rather disappointing if it is not party to a torrent. A ‘waterfall’ pump is required for such an effect, – something that is more powerful than one used in a water feature – after all, it does have to move more water. Furthermore, a waterfall pump will have to lift water to greater heights, through a larger bore pipe and should be purchased to satisfy your waterfall’s specific requirements.

The greater the vertical distance a pump has to reach, the lower the flow rate, resulting in a trickle rather than a torrent. A useful ‘rule of thumb’ is that for a 6 inch wide water fall to covered with a realistic layer of water, a pump should be delivering approximately 600 gallons per hour at that height. Check the pump’s specifications before purchasing.

A considerable benefit when running a waterfall compared to a water feature is that there is a considerable reservoir from which to pump – the pond itself. This is not to say that splashes from a waterfall will not impact on the pond’s level as I have seen even the smallest of splashes from a water fall cause a pond level to drop several inches over the course of a day. Water loss from a waterfall will not only cause the level to drop (and topping up can be a real chore), but can also cause subsidence leading to greater leaks in the water fall at a later date. This can be avoided, or at best reduced by following a few simple rules when constructing a waterfall.

Waterfall construction to avoid water loss.

Waterfalls are notorious for causing ponds to lose water. This can be through splashing, leaking, as well as evaporation (which cannot be avoided).

Water falls can be constructed from either preformed units (which can inter link), or from natural stone, and the same measures against water loss should be taken whatever the construction method.

Having excavated the site for your pond and the course for your waterfall, purchase a piece of pond liner sufficient to line the pond and water fall without having to cut the liner between the waterfall and pond. This may appear a little extravagant, but by making the waterfall an integral part of the pond, any leaking or splashing water will naturally return to the pond. Steps should be cut out of the earth, ready to create a waterfall, and the liner laid onto the steps. If preparing the site for a natural stone water fall, create a series of depressions in the earth that will form natural pools when the waterfall is not running.

Having laid out the liner, a bed of mixed sand and cement can be laid, on which either your preformed cascade or stream units can be placed, or into which your natural store can be embedded to form a stepped ‘crazy paving’. Either way, a lime neutralising compound should be added to the mix to avoid water quality problems during the waterfall’s life.

Preformed Units

These can range from semi-rigid plastic units through to rigid fibreglass and even reconstituted ‘stone’ shapes, ready to be laid down in an order and sequence of your choice. Even though these will not leak, water loss can still occur between units and through splashing. This should not lead to a drop in water level if the cascade is laid on a foundation lined with the same piece of liner that makes the pond.

Natural stone

The easiest stone to work with when making waterfalls is York stone. This sandstone easily forms flat surfaces and can be chipped and broken into the desired size and shape. The stone can be embedded into a foundation of mortar which sits on the waterproof liner, returning any leaks or splashes to the pond. The waterfall should be constructed from the bottom up so that at each level, the lip of the upper cascade can overlap the pool below it. Do not trim off any excess liner along the sides of the waterfall until after test running it. This will show you where water is likely to splash or spill over, allowing you to catch it in the liner. The path that the water takes can also be trained by the strategic placing of stones in the waterfall channel. Having trimmed the liner, it can be buried out of sight. With this form of construction, although not essential, to guard against leaks, the finished waterfall can be sealed as an extra precaution with a suitable water proof sealant.


Fountains are the simplest way of introducing moving water into a pond, but do not look appropriate in every pond situation. They suit more formal ponds that have a regular shape, giving a classically shaped pond a real sparkle. As they are not something mother nature would create, they can look out of place in an informal or ‘natural’ garden pond.

Easy to install, they simply attach directly onto a pump, with a huge array of different fountain heads, effects and ornaments through which the water can be delivered. There are even floodlit fountain heads that will give any evening garden party a touch of glamour.

Of the many options of introducing a dynamic aquatic touch to a garden or backyard, each has its advantages and limitations. At the heart of each is a reliable pump, delivering water through the feature of your choice and a quest to satisfy our innate need to be close to moving water.

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