A water garden can be the most enjoyable investment you could ever make, or the biggest wet nightmare. A recent phone call from an angry water garden owner prompted this article. What she was describing to me was just the opposite of what would be considered the ideal water garden experience.
She began by telling me the pond was leaking, and she needed to add water daily. It was full of algae and smelled like dead fish. Besides needing to pull the sump pump out of the pond every three days to clean the algae and debris from its intake screen, her electric bill was out of hand since she installed the pond. She continued: “The grandkids were climbing around on the waterfall and the rocks slid around, exposing the liner everywhere.”
When she complained to the contractor about needing to add water every couple of days, he came out and did something and it stopped losing water. She explained that she told a friend that her water bill was three times its normal cost and that she heard running water all the time and thought it might be a stuck toilet tank float. The friend investigated and discovered the contractor had installed a mechanical water level controller to the pond. He did this instead of fixing the leak, apparently assuming that the client would never figure it out.
Then came the dreaded question she asked me: “Can you help me out?” my automatic response is, “How much did you spend on your pond and waterfall?” She answered, “$6,500!” I then asked, “Before taking your money, did the contractor give you any of the negative aspects of a liner pond, such as dangers from gnawing rodents, tree roots, sharp rocks, and other such objects?” She answered, “No, nothing at all.”
Since we do not try to patch or fix other contractors’ mistakes, there was only one reply I could give: that we would have to rip it all out and start from scratch. I explained that I had counseled at least a dozen of my clients in similar situations to go to small claims court to try to recover their investment from unscrupulous contractors. Every one of them was successful in court, thanks to their consultations with me and my assistance to them as an expert witness. One did not even have a contractor’s license and the customer had to put a lien on his house to recover her money.
Here is a summary of what I tell these people whom I have helped:
1. Research every aspect of water gardening before you start. You will rarely get unbiased information from pond liner advocates that sell pond liner kits and sump pumps. All of their so-called pond advice and “how-to” information is identical because they plagiarized false or inaccurate information from each other.
2. Find a qualified contractor.
3. Build the water garden, pond and waterfall using rebar and concrete. The pond liner track record speaks for itself.
More than 37% of all waterfalls have serious structural damage within 3 years of construction.
57% of homeowners say they are rather unsatisfied with the way their waterfall came out after the project was completed.
One in three waterfalls and ponds are leaking water within nine months of completion.
63% of “do-it-yourselfers” say they wished they had the proper information from the “get go” or that they had hired someone.
4. Use an energy-efficient centrifugal pump. Sump pumps are not designed for continuous operation only intermittent duty. In addition, they have limited warranties and use up to 60% more energy than centrifugal pumps.
5. Install an autofill water level controller.
A water garden should not be considered a short term investment. Water gardens in most cases will bring more long term joy and pleasure than anything someone could spend money on. It is something that should last for decades. If it is built with concrete and rebar, it is built to last. Liner construction, however, does not last. Take it from a professional. If it is not worth doing right, then it is not worth doing at all.