The Best Water Features for Your Yard

garden pond in backyard, attract amphibians to

A swimming pool is not the only type of water feature possible for your outdoor living space. Not everyone has the financial resources or room for a private pool. Nor does everyone want a swimming pool. But there might still be that desire for water, a basic, innate attraction to the natural, soothing sound and mesmerizing sight of water that's wired inside so many of us. Discover different ways to incorporate a water feature into your outdoor living space, regardless of the size of your yard.

  • 01 of 07

    Swimming Pool

    modern house with pool
    A modern house in the desert with a concrete pool surround. Paul Bradbury/Getty Images

    Maybe you aren't aware of all the different types or shapes of swimming pools that are available or are possible? Small ones, big ones—pools for swimming lapsplunging, or entertaining family and friends. You may be surprised at how many pool possibilities exist.

    Swimming pools with waterfalls or a water features are a popular way to integrate two types of water features into one space.

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    A garden pond can have lotus-like water lilies floating on top or be populated with vibrant and friendly koi fish. Or it can be a small, clean, clear, empty body of water—simply there for reflection and pleasure. Like pools, some ponds have beautiful waterfalls that add aesthetic and sensory pleasure to your outdoor space.

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  • 03 of 07

    Hot Tub or Spa

    spool with water features
    Horton Land Works

    While hot tubs and spas are built more for relaxation and entertaining than for aesthetics, they can still be attractive. Its main function is to entertain a homeowner, family, and friends, or is a hot, healing source of therapy for tired, sore bodies and muscles. When you're done, you just place the cover back on the hot tub and don't necessarily sit around and look at the covered hot tub as a form of rest, relaxation, and inspiration.

    However, some hot tubs and spas are custom built to look like small pools or ponds. You can even add water features to the spa, like waterfalls.

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    beautiful fountain
    Getty Images

    Contrary to popular belief, fountains are not water guzzling features for your garden. If designed and built with water conservation in mind, a water fountain recycles water (perhaps from the pool), feeding it back to the fountain head or inlet where it is used again. And again, and—you get the idea.

    Not only that, in hot climates or on hot days, a fountain fills the air with moisture, bringing much-needed relief to your family and the nearby plants and landscaping. Fountains can come or be built in all kinds of styles, materials, and sizes—limited only by your DIY skills, imagination, and budget.

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    Getty Images

    In nature, streams rush through granite mountains or meander lazily in upland meadows or trickle through valleys. Before embarking on a stream-making project, research the movement and look of real streams. A backyard do-it-yourself stream should provide the kind of water flow that your property and soil are equipped to handle.

    Most private streams work best if positioned on level land, or at a very slight pitch or slope.

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    ponds with waterfalls
    Jeff Renner

    A visit to a national park might have gotten you yearning for your own backyard version of the Pacific Northwest's breathtaking Multnomah Falls. While you may not be able to recreate one of the world's natural wonders, you can certainly be inspired to do so. That way, every time you look at your own private waterfall, you will be reminded of that memory-filled trip to Yosemite or wherever.

    Before getting started, understand that a backyard waterfall will most likely consist of two or more pools or bodies of water at varying heights. The upper pool is the smallest—big enough to get the water revved-up into a sort of bustling flow.

    Natural or man-made rocks and boulders are often incorporated into home-based waterfalls. Also, you can orchestrate whatever course you want the waterfall to take—a direct drop (freefall), interweaving channels, or one that breaks into a series of small holding pools or stair steps.

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  • 07 of 07


    well at house
    Tsp Product/Getty Images

    As in, a wishing well. Some wells serve a practical purpose, drawing up water from the deep reaches of the earth below. Others are more of a decorative feature, reminiscent of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or, less likely, The Ring. Wells as a decorative landscape element probably enjoyed their heyday during the post-World War II era. Still, some people like their old-fashioned appeal and wells complement some times of architecture and landscape design, like Tudor or Early American.