Pondless Waterfalls Exposed

Why are waterfalls so popular? Could it be the symphony of sound produced as the water cascades over the rocks? Or maybe it’s the mesmerizing sparkling dance of the water as it splashes its way to the pond. Amazingly, the major attribute of a waterfall is not what you can see or hear. In fact, its greatest attraction does not involve the five senses at all; yet, it makes the greatest impact. What does? Negative ions!

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You will find this same characteristic at the ocean shore. How do you feel as you stand on the beach – relaxed, calm, peaceful, tranquil, and yet exhilarated? Do you feel the anxiety, stress and worry melting away? Why is that? Is it a result of watching and listening to the waves crashing on the shore? Yes, this gives pleasure to the senses, but the source of well-being is derived from breathing the air at the ocean and around waterfalls.

The friction of the ocean waves slapping the shore and of water running over the rocks of a waterfall releases negative ions into the air, and your body responds positively to the negatively charged air. You may have heard of ion generators for the home or office pedestal pumps. Another great source of negative ions is a thunderstorm. Have you noticed how fresh and exhilarating the air is just prior to, during and following a thunderstorm? This, too, is the result of the same process.

The best way to enjoy this healthy, relaxing and stress-relieving phenomenon is to own a back yard waterfall. A waterfall alone is not that expensive compared to a pond. In addition to the construction costs, there is usually a considerable amount of long-term maintenance and upkeep involved with a pond. Another factor is meeting all the city, county and state building codes that are related to ponds. Some of the issues involved here are set-back, depth, fences, special gates, engineering, door alarms, and supplemental homeowner’s insurance covering the added liability.

So, is there a solution to all this? Yes, I discovered a way to solve most all of these issues back in 1984. A client wanted a waterfall in his front yard. So as to eliminate all the liability issues a pond creates, I decided to eliminate the pond, replacing it with a covered catch basin. This design would eliminate the possibility of a drowning hazard for children or pets. I called it a “child-proof waterfall.”

In the early nineties, flat rubber roofing material became popular as a pond liner and, several years later, someone adapted the liner to a basin pond waterfall and called it a “pondless” waterfall. But the major drawback to using liners is that they are susceptible to leaks from many sources: sharp objects, animal claws, rats, mice, ground squirrels, gophers, chipmunks, tree roots or heavy rocks that eventually stretch and rip the liner. Even a pin hole will produce a leak that amounts to five gallons in 24 hours.

A properly constructed concrete waterfall will last for decades and never crack or leak. Concrete waterfall shells only cost ten to fifteen percent more, depending on the size. In many cases, when comparing smaller water features, the concrete construction was actually cheaper.

If you are interested in a temporary or short-term waterfall and need to eventually move it, a liner is the best route to go. Otherwise, I recommend concrete construction. You should make sure it is 3500 psi with stealth fiber added and reinforced with rebar 8-10″ on center. The concrete shell should be sealed before placing the rocks and applying Thoroseal, which prevents lime leaching and leaking. (This product is sold nation-wide.) After following these basics, you will have a waterfall that will give you decades of pleasure.

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