HOW TO: Build a Stream into your Pond
Build a stream flowing into your pond and create a natural meandering water feature that aerates and filters the water while providing a beautiful visual, natural water sounds, and a great ecosystem for wildlife!
In the Spring of 2015, we added a stream to the small 1200 gallon pond inside the gates at Water Garden Gems. This was a simple goldfish pond with a trickle waterfall and water lilies…now it is a Texas Hill Country look-alike that everyone stops and admires. Here is the simple process we went through to build this natural stream effect on what was flat ground to create the newest water feature at Water Garden Gems. When you see how easy it is, you will want to get started ASAP… so come talk to us and we can help you size it up with the liner you need, pump and piping, and help you determine if you want to do a pressure filter or bog filter at the top of the stream…options abound and we can assist you in getting the pond stream you are looking for; whether it be adding to an existing pond, creating between two ponds, or a self standing stream that disappears into rocks and back again creating the look of a natural spring.
Step by Step…
1)The plan: figure out your gradient over the length of your stream you desire. You need a decent gradient to create the “falls” down the stream. A 2” drop will create water movement and character, but minimal to no sound. Each “fall” needs to have 4” or so of drop to create a sound as the water falls to the lower level. A 6-8” drop will create a louder sound while a waterfall probably needs 12”+ for adequate effect. With this in mind, if you want a 20’ stream you will need 2’ of so of gradient change from start to finish to have a decent level of noise and several spots of "character." We recommend goaling for an average of 18-24” rise for every 10 feet of run as a minimal.
2)Use your natural topography to create a realistic flow of water. A rise on the right side calls for the stream to flow around to the left of the rise as if the stream naturally formed there.
3)Frame in your streambed. We used treated wood anchored into place by pounding stakes down into the sub-ground; a great way of solidifying the form so as ground shifts, the leveling of the stream will remain. There are other options for your framework… you can use rock, brick, concrete or just berm up with dirt, but dirt is likely to move over time, loosing your created level.
4)Once framed, lay the liner and run the water to see how it falls from level to level, and make adjustments. Make sure your walls are high enough to hold in the raised waterflow once you throw the rocks in, this is very important! Don’t underestimate the water displacement when you fill the stream with rocks. With the flowing water on the liner, you can start to see where rocks can be placed to add character and splash, and get a good visual of your end product.
5)Choose your bridge rocks for each layer and dry-lay them on place as to form your dams and your drops. Make sure they fit well to together at each level and spend ample time in selection. Once you have these rocks in place, adhere them into place. I recommend spray foam in a can… Great Stuff brand is what we use. This holds the rock in place to the liner and creates the water seal under the bridge stone to prevent water from oozing under the rock and thereby reducing the water flow that you see. Note: You want to see ALL of your water so we want to prevent it from leaking under and beside our bridges.
6)Once bridge stones are in place, you can begin to fill the stream with river rock and miscellaneous larger rocks to create the natural look and character of the stream. Be sure to place the rocks as if they had fallen down the mountain stream into place in a flood… meaning where the stream flows to the right, you should have more rocks piled up on the outside right wall of the stream as if the water had, over time, pushed to rocks to the side… like a natural stream.
7)Your cap rocks and river rocks are placed in and out of the stream to merge the visual into the landscaping. Don’t hesitate to move rocks here and there; even take pictures and study them to change a few things the following day. You want to completely cover the liner in all places to hide the black from your feature and to protect your liner to help it last longer, safe from the UV rays of the sun.
8)Filtration: Here is a choice for you to make. We built a bog filter at the top of the stream for the water to flow through and out of, starting our water flow visual. The gravel and plants in the bog will be our filter and eliminate the need to hide a filter around the stream. This is simple and ideal in a stream design. Your stream river rocks will also catch beneficial bacteria and serve as a filtering agent, but will themselves be insufficient and the stream will get dirty faster, taking away from the overall visual effect. If your grand plan does not allow for a bog filter at the top of the stream, a pressure filter or even a simple prefilter in the pond will suffice. For more info on the bog filtration, check out the HOW TO BUILD A BOG FILTER article and use it’s information to adapt to your project.
9)Final touches; plants and fish. Plants soften the look; filter, cool, and clear the water, and serve as protection for the fish. Choose wisely, but these can be as impactful as the stream!
***What you need:
-Figure out your space
-Measure off length and width and elevation drop
-Take Pictures and bring them to us
>>>Then we can help you size up the liner (one liner, two liners, or three different liners and how to attach them)
-How much water flow do you want?
>>>Then we can size the pump correctly for water flow based on filtration choice
-Build it and then come in for your plants and fish.
Water Garden Gems is a family owned and operated specialty retailer located outside San Antonio. Shane and Alona have owned WGG for the past two years, after building and enjoying ponds as a hobby. Water Garden Gems has been serving customers and teaching them for 25 years and currently holds monthly pond seminars onsite as well as misc speaking seminars by Shane throughout Central Texas at shows, fairs, club meetings, etc. Located on 3.5 acres of display ponds and waterfalls, you are sure to get your inspiration walking the grounds of Water Garden Gems and then you can come inside the store and our amazing expert staff can walk you through what you need and supply you with every item to make your dream water feature a reality.