Please visit our Sponsors

Related FAQs: Pond Construction Methods,

Related Articles: Pond Design, Excavation, Is it Level?Block, Liners, Concrete and Pond Liners, Wood-Liner Ponds, Converting Pools to Ponds, Waterfalls, Rock Selection/UsePlumbing, ElectricalPumps, Sealing Concrete, RepairExample Ponds/Water Features

/Aquatic Gardens, Design, Construction & Maintenance

Pond Building for a Rainy Area

by Robert Fenner  

Aquatic Gardens

Ponds, Streams, Waterfalls & Fountains:
Volume 1. Design & Construction
Volume 2. Maintenance, Stocking, Examples

V. 1 Print and eBook on Amazon
V. 2 Print and eBook on Amazon

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

             Designing, building and maintaining a pond in a rainy area differs from planning, construction and operation from less wet areas only in trying to keep yourself and the work dry and in making sure that little to no run off from precipitation, snow melt make their way into the basins themselves. Excluding such influx is essential for preserving control over water quality as well as preventing the flushing out of livestock from your pond to who knows where.

Universal Pond Issues: Design

            All ponds need to be thought through… fully considering what they’re intended to achieve in sights and sounds, livestock accommodation, growth, possible reproduction. The basin/s should be as large as possible: to provide maximum stability, discounting variation in temperature due to sun, wind. The setting should be drawn out on a scaled drawing and space made available all around the water feature to allow for human passage, landscaping and maintenance.

            System size and shape are per all types of biological systems: the bigger the better, with steep sides unless liability is an issue, to again discount environmental variability and prevent animals getting in or out of the basin/s.

            The placement of a pond is of critical importance. Touching on the above paragraphs, you want to site yours near structure (buildings, walls, shading trees) to cut down on the influence of sun and wind, but don’t want the basin edge/s to be too close such that you can’t get yourself and tools around the edges to work on and in the system.

Universal Pond Issues: Construction

            There are several useful, tried and true ways to build ponds; liner only, liner with reinforcing mesh and concrete of some sort, block and mortar, wood and liner, fiberglass, plastic molded; containers; all with their up and downsides, pro-advisors and detractors. I urge you to investigate these possibilities thoroughly before setting on one method.

            Our businesses installed commercial and residential ponds in Southern California, and almost always employed a liner with reinforcement and concrete methodology. Why not liner only? These simpler constructs just don’t hold up to the vagaries of heavy use; folks and animals getting into and walking in the pond, poking the liner with sharp objects. Having a poured, hand-packed, or (air powered) shot concrete shell over the liner, and some reinforcing mesh for it to hang onto is the simplest, fastest way of assuring strength, beauty and permanence to the pond.


The first and last line of defense in both leaking and causing troubles from without your basins is the use of a suitable liner. EPDM, butyl rubber, and simple PVC or embossed with other materials will keep your water where you want it, and outside water from penetrating.


            Basic installation of liner ponds involves:

1)      Excavation: the removal of soil, rock, roots… making holes for the basin/s to be constructed. These should be as steep and deep as practical; allowing a shallow water bench and or just one or two areas for easy entry and leaving the pond. Sharp rocks and roots that stick out of the ground should be covered with old carpet or such to prevent them from puncturing the liner.

2)      Staking up the edge/berm with wood pieces that have been sharpened on one end to allow pounding into the ground.

3)      Hanging of a flexible (pencil diameter or so) of rebar onto the aforementioned stakes; with tie-wire, hog-rings…

4)      Draping the liner loosely over the rebar hanger, attaching it permanently by crimping hog rings over and through the liner with pliers. IF a waterfall is being installed, it’s a very good idea to either have part of the liner extend up and over the rock of the functional “trough” or place an overhanging piece in said trough, having it drop several inches into the basin it will service. Think about this: the water never leaves the liner-covering… thus denying any chance for leaking.

5)      Lying in the reinforcing mesh over the liner… Usually chicken wire or stucco mesh (sans paper) for home-size basins; this material comes in rolls, that you want to start by attaching via hog rings over the rebar hanger and liner and loosely rolling into the basin. Take care that loose ends (at the end of rolls), sharp wire points are left “rolled in” to prevent their puncturing the liner. Successive widths of reinforcing mesh are hog ringed together or overlapped to help them lie flat.

6)      Plumbing and any electrical conduit should be laid next; and yes, INSIDE the liner. Flexible PVC may be used, and this too can be tied in place or simply lay down. If you’re employing pre-made intakes of any sort, or simply pipe terminations to be screened later, MAKE SURE and fill the plumbing ends with paper, cloth… taped over; to prevent concrete from getting in the lines.

7)      Emplacing the concrete (cement, sand, water and crushed rock aggregate, plus maybe coloring agent, adjuncts like fiber, glue) is next… either hand-packed (laborious) or accelerated via compressed air (“shot-creted”). DO get plenty of help; professional if it’s within your budget here. Wear old clothes… TAKE your time. Part of the greatness of using liners is that all concrete work need not be done in a day; all at once. Ease off if your back, arms, legs are fatiguing.

8)      Cure: keep the surface lightly damp by misting with a hose, covering with canvas/bags… let the ionic solid, lattice-crystal structure of the cement et al. gain strength by surface drying over a few days.

9)      Lightly acid wash the basin, rock et al…. We used diluted (about ten times…. “Doing as we oughta, adding acid to water”) HCl, Hydrochloric Acid… swimming pool strength (3 molar); via water cans; but you can use straight vinegar (Acetic Acid); food grade, straight. There will be fumes that you want to largely avoid inhaling; hence, sprinkle the acid down-wind. What you’re doing is removing a good deal of the excess alkalinity; even if you used “plastic” cement in your concrete and mortar mixes; as well as prettying up the surfaces, removing excess material.

10)   Rinse, remove, rinse, remove the water from hosing down the now-cleaned basin; fill up, and the hardest part; be patient. Don’t add livestock for now. Instead:

11)   Test the equipment; pressure test the plumbing lines, check for leaks….

About Gear:

            Unless you intend to have a plain reflecting pool that lacks circulation, filtration lighting et al, you’re going to need a place to sequester your pump, related plumbing and electrics. Better by far in general that these mechanicals are mounted above grade (versus below) to prevent water damage. It is still advisable to conceal them in some sort of cover to prevent weathering and reduce noise, and best to situate all behind

About Electrical

            Ah yes; water and electricity do NOT mix. All electrical outlets, connections must need be run through or begin (at the circuit breaker) with a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter device; an electronic electron counter if you will, that will cut the circuit should it detect less electron flow coming back than flowing out. Operationally you’re familiar with GFCI’s in your bathroom and kitchen outlets. They prevent electrical shock and worse through your being grounded, and will do the same for your outside circuits as well. Not only are their use a good idea; in most places, their use is mandated by law. Get and use them… now available for both 110-120 and 220-240 voltage circuits.


About Waterfalls:

            In rainy areas one should pay especially close attention in building sufficient support for rockwork, including basin-surrounding boulders, but particularly for massive waterfalls. The latter really need a firm foundation to prevent their weight settling into the ground, likely breaking the material holding the rock together and stream/s intact. Shown below is a basic form, reinforcing rebar and “stand-offs” supporting these rods to allow the tamped concrete to span around them.

The foundation for your waterfall and equipment too need a firm base; for systems of any size, one formed, internally supported and cast in concrete is best. Here is a simple form with rebar and stand-offs to support them for the pour.


            In some settings a “Class Two” foundation is preferable, with a base of a few to several inches of crushed rock placed under the above structure. In essence, this is a further-dug out whole that is back-filled with (usually) ¾” nominal crushed rock of four inches or so depth.


Means of Preventing Water Intrusion:

Raised Berm: The simplest, most effective means of keeping run-off and who knows what else in it (soil, fertilizers, pesticides…) out of your pond basin/s is by not allowing it to flow into them in the first place by building up an edge of along the pond. As described above in the section on basic construction and shown in detail below, the staked berm, re-bar edge, liner and reinforcing mesh are purposely built up above grade, including any surrounding rock-work, such that water flowing over landscape is diverted around the pond and not into it. Of course, the overall grade must allow for drainage away from the area.


Moat Diversion:

            Just as around a castle, a moat can serve to take in and/or divert water from inadvertently entering a pond. Many folks enjoy purposeful landscape about their basins, so just providing a deeper, porous planting area there can easily function as a working diverter. An added bonus here is the dual work of the moat/planter in keeping folks and non-human animals from getting into the pond itself.


Subterranean Drainage:

            Various drain strategies around the pond can preclude water running in from outside. French drains, or simply placing four inch diameter periodically perforated corrugate/flexible line in a trough around the pond, with batting (Dacron polyester) material atop, this covered with crushed rock… allows percolation of water into the ground, and you leading this in turn to drainage further downhill. If the ground, area about is very level, you might need to employ a sump, pump and float switch to blast water elsewhere under pressure.



            A water feature can be an important part of almost all landscapes; even ones in rainy settings. One just needs to take the lay of the land, do some careful planning, and construct the basin/s such that what goes in them is what you want, and not (usually) run-off. The ways for accomplishing this are of a few variations on a theme of creating a barrier and drainage away from the pond. There are good reasons to want to control your water quality; including algae et al. pest control, as well as preserving water quality for your intended livestock.

Aquatic Gardens

Ponds, Streams, Waterfalls & Fountains:
Volume 1. Design & Construction
Volume 2. Maintenance, Stocking, Examples

V. 1 Print and eBook on Amazon
V. 2 Print and eBook on Amazon

by Robert (Bob) Fenner
Become a Sponsor Features:
Daily FAQs FW Daily FAQs SW Pix of the Day FW Pix of the Day New On WWM
Helpful Links Hobbyist Forum Calendars Admin Index Cover Images
Featured Sponsors: