Disappearing Waterfalls and Fountains


Disappearing Waterfalls & Fountains

Enjoy the sights and sounds of moving water with less maintenance.

Sometimes it may be desirable to have a waterfall or a fountain without the pond. Someone with small children or someone who only wants a water display without fish or plants may prefer this approach to having an open pond. What is visible is an area of water worn pebbles with the fountain or waterfall disappearing into them, thus the common term of “disappearing fountain” or “disappearing waterfall”. The pump and water are below the pebbles eliminating the danger of open waters.  This type of water feature can be very low-maintenance.  Additionally, they can be less expensive to install without the need for filter systems.

Disappearing Waterfalls
The process is fairly simple. A reservoir is constructed usually by digging in the ground although it’s possible this is above-ground. The reservoir and stream area are then lined with pond liner to contain the water for recirculation.  The reservoir or basin will use a pump vault to house the submersible pump and give a volume of water around the pump for it to draw from.  The pump vault also allows easy access to the pump for servicing. Most basins will then have water matrices adjacent to the pump vault to ensure the reservoir holds an adequate volume of water.  


Sizing the Reservoir
As a general rule the reservoir should hold a minimum of 2-3 times the amount of water that may be in motion at any given time.  This is to help ensure that there is plenty of water in the basin to prevent pump damage.  One of the most common times this is important is when the pump is turned off or power goes out.  When that happens the water in the waterfall/stream will run down and overflow the basin.  Then when the pump starts back all of that water is no longer in the system.  If the reservoir was not big enough, this could result in the pump running dry and over-heating.  Note that in a reservoir filled with stone only approximately 10% of the volume will be water.  Using a water matrix reverses this to approximately 90% water.  

TIP - How to estimate how much water your reservoir needs to hold. Start by estimating how much water will be in the waterfall and stream.   To calculate that volume we’ll use the formula Length x Width x Depth x 7.5= Volume.  

Example:  Our stream is about 15’ long and will average about 18” wide.  The depth of water in the stream will be only about 3”.   So, 15 x 1.5 x .25 x 7.5 = 42.2 gallons.  If we want our reservoir to hold 3 times as much water, that means it needs to hold around 125 gallons.  If our pump vault holds about 30 gallons of water you can see that we need another 95 gallons of water.  We will use the Atlantic EcoBlox water matrices, each of which will provide another 31.5 gallons of water.  3 of these plus our vault gives us about 124.5 gallons of water volume.  So our reservoir just needs to be constructed large enough to house all of that and the rest filled with stone.  

1. Once the excavation is dug, add the pond underlayment, and pond liner.  Depending on the size reservoir needed and the length and width of the stream, you may decide to use one piece of liner for the reservoir and one for the stream.  While, we would always prefer to use only one piece if possible, using 2 works also.  The stream liner will overlap the reservoir liner.  And while a simple overlap should be adequate to prevent leakage, you can gain extra security and peace of mind by seaming these together with splicing tape.  

2. Place the pump vault and any water matrices being used into the reservoir.  

3. Position the waterfall box at the head of the waterfall/stream.

4. Place the pump into the pump vault and connect plumbing from the pump to the waterfall box.

5. Fill the remainder of the reservoir with stone, this is usually river stone around 3-6” in size but this can vary based on preferences and availability.  

6. Position stone in the waterfall and stream area to create the aesthetic you desire.  This step often takes a lot of trial and error to tweak rocks in just the right way.  This step will also involve the use of waterfall foam to ensure the water will flow where it can be seen instead of under and between stones.  

7. Add final touches.  This may be plants in or around the feature, additional stone, pieces of driftwood, lighting, etc.

8. Enjoy

Disappearing Fountains

This type of feature can be one of the easiest to install, often taking only a few hours.  The most common approach is to use a fountain basin to house the pump and water.  The basin can be placed into a shallow hole in the ground or you can place directly on the ground or patio and hide the basin with stacked pavers, bricks, etc.  The fountain topper or visible display can be almost as limitless as your imagination.  Some of the most common fountain toppers are urns, vases, bubbling rocks, or basalt columns.  
A submersible pump will be placed in the fountain basin with tubing attached that will run out of the basin and to the topper piece to create a beautiful display of water.  
The top of the basin surrounding the fountain piece is covered in stone.
If the feature you envision is larger that what can fit on these pre-molded basins then a customized system can be created using components like described in the Disappearing Waterfall section where the reservoir is created with pond liner and fitted with a pump vault and water matrices.  
If the urn does not have a hole in the bottom then it will be necessary to drill out the bottom with a glass or concrete drill bit. Rubber tubing is run through the hole and epoxy putty can be used to seal around the tubing.
After hooking up your urn or fountain to complete your fountain just cover with a decorative gravel allowing the gravel to spill outside the reservoir to provide the finished shape.