Starting and Maintaining a Water Feature

Karen Schiltz - Monday, March 18, 2013

Here are some factors when choosing a location for your Water features are anything that include water-Streams, waterfalls, ponds, water gardens.



Remember to contact Alberta One Call To Locate underground utilities before you decide on a location. 



Is there electricity and water close by? Make sure you have a hose long enough to reach the feature.



How much sun does this location get? Will you want plants in the feature, is there enough sunlight to support them? Most water plants need at least 6 hours of light per day.



Trees that are near or overhanging the pond create more maintenance. Leaves or fruit that fall into the pond should be cleaned out regularly. If not, they add to the waste in the pond and clog filters.



Is the location the lowest in the yard? When it rains will all the water run into this location? If so maybe consider having a raised edge or ditch so the water doesn’t collect in the feature.



Is there electricity and water close by? Remember to contact Alberta One Call To Locate underground facilities before you decide on a location


The size of your feature

If you plan on keeping fish over winter, a pond should be at least three feet deep. With a deeper pond the water is generally cooler in summer. Goldfish and koi are coldwater fish. 


There are pre-formed and flexible liner features to choose from. Generally, pre-formed ones are smaller and harder to install. Flexible lined ones are larger and can be fitted to the size and depth wanted. Keep your plan simple. To get a good idea of how large you want your feature, use a garden hose to trace the outline. Rearrange it until you are satisfied with the shape and size. Features can also be above ground for easier access.



Whether you plan on installing a preformed or a flexible liner, they both need the same things. They both need filters, a balance of fish and plants, and liner (purchase the most durable that you can afford for a lasting feature)


Preformed liners

Trace the top of pond shape onto the ground. Measure the bottom dimensions of the liner. When digging the hole the sides should be sloped to properly support the liner’s shelves and walls.


Flexible Liners

In the proposed location, lay a hose/rope down in the shape and size that you want. Move it around until you are satisfied with the shape and size in that area. When thinking about the size, remember the size of materials that are available (pond liner width). Before you dig, always remember to locate underground utilities. You might want to consider renting an earth-mover if the pond is fairly large. Start by levelling the top grade. If it is not level, the water might run out the lower side and the higher side would be sticking out of the water. Levelling is best done with a string-line level. Remember to have shelves around the perimeter of the pond where plants will be able to sit. These shelves should be at the minimum 1 foot in depth (front to back). Depending on how deep the water is, you could have many layers of shelves.

If you have a skimmer and waterfall, this would be the time to place them. Make sure the skimmer is the right height for the water level. and that the falls are back-filled around so that it looks natural and blended into the landscape (not a bump that’s spilling water).


Around the outside edge of the pond, dig a small trench. This is where the liner will be back-filled and secured in place. To calculate how much underlay and pond liner is needed, follow this equation.


length+ depth+ depth+ 2ft overlap= length of liner (feet)

width+ depth+ depth+ 2ft overlap= width of liner (feet)


Make sure to add whatever length is needed to cover the waterfall. Before placing the liner, place the underlay in the hole. This will help protect and cushion the lining. Place the liner in the pond hole but do not pull snug, you want it to be loose. Pleat the edges so that the liner looks neat and tidy. Put the edge of the lining in the trench and secure with a few stones. Install skimmer and falls properly, using the directions that come with them.




While working on the pond liner, it is a good idea to protect it with a soft layer under boots or even by going barefoot.


If you are going to have lights or pumps in the pond, put them in before you add rocks.


When putting in rocks make sure they are placed gently to prevent any holes being made.


Place larger stones against the vertical edges and smaller pebbles on the shelves of the pond covering any wires or hoses that might be on the bottom.


Compact soil on the lining in the trench and finish the edging with the chosen material.


You can start filling the pond with water.


When the water is at a desired level (usually about 2 inch from top) turn off the water.


Plug in any pumps and lights to make sure they are working properly.


You can start to add plants as soon as you like.


A good idea is to start adding fish in a couple weeks. This lets the pond cycle a while, building beneficial bacterial before the fish are added.


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