Water is life. We know that our bodies are over 70% water, we naturally gravitate towards water for vacations and relaxation and the health and healing benefits of water are well documented.
Growing up on farms in country Victoria, I have always been drawn to water and the natural playground that mother nature has to offer. Climbing large rock formations, scaling gum trees and walking creek beds looking for skimming rocks, fish and frogs are some of the great memories of my childhood.
As I grew into an adult, I desperately wanted to rediscover my connection with nature while using my creativity and love for traditional craftsmanship to build beautiful ecosystems that were sustainable and improved people’s quality of life.
How is an Aquascape Ecosystem pond built ?
Firstly when designing and preparing to build a new water feature we take some time to discuss the size and the intended use of the water feature. We also talk about if the feature is in full sun and what the potential nutrient load (Fish, Ducks, Deciduous trees in the area etc. ) would be and this will help us decide what the best feature and filtration is for the area.
Pond vs Pondless waterfall , Skimmer vs Intake Bay , Biofalls vs Upflow Wetland and what size pump is needed for flow rate , head height and power consumption are some of the options and choices made to properly spec up a system that will be beautiful , low maintenance and effective.
We only use Professional Quality Aquascape products and Firestone EDPM liner to ensure you are getting the best products, service, and end result.
Once the type and size of the pond or water feature has been chosen and all the equipment is ordered it is time to start the excavation. The way we excavate the feature is a large part of the success of the design , making sure to have clean vertical shelves for boulder work and aquatic plantings as well as ensuring that all the ground is clear of rock roots and other debris not to risk damaging the liner.
We will also set our levels at this time for our skimmer or intake bay as well as our water height and waterfall entry. On larger ponds or ponds with heavy clay soil we will also dig a drainage system to alleviate any pressure build-up from ground water getting underneath the liner.
Once the excavation is completed and cleaned up we then add thick Geotextile Underlayment for protection before laying down our Firestone EDPM 1.14mm liner. When building larger recreation ponds we will also add a full top layer of geotextile fabric for protection and on our smaller features we will cut squares of geotextile up to use under any particularly heavy boulders or anything that seems like it has a sharp point on the bottom.
Depending on our access for the individual project we usually like to keep the pond and waterfall liner as one piece but when we are making large turns for streams or extra waterfall sections for ponds we use a cold seaming technique to join the Firestone EDPM liner , this is one of the many huge benefits to using an EDPM rubber liner over other inferior products.
Our next step is setting our skimmer box in place and making sure it is level and set at the correct height for water level. We prefer to use the Aquascape 1000 skimmer box as it has an adjustable weir door to make aesthetic micro adjustments on our finished water level.
Once we have our skimmer set and our Flexible PVC pipe roughed in we are ready to start the boulder work.
Using a Swivel hook with an adjustable choke sling and straps allows us to place large boulders with precision without damaging our liner or getting straps jammed underneath boulders . Once we get our boulders in we use chock rocks to fill any gaps and backfill with smaller pebble to create solid rock work throughout the pond as well as creating surface area for beneficial bacteria . We also like to utilise Logs to soften the edges and create some different textures.
As soon as the main body of the pond is complete we can start running water into it for cleanout and start on the construction of MY favourite part of the pond! The Waterfalls! Every pond builder has different styles that they like or features that they are trying to achieve . For me its creating a mixture of sheet and rapids falls to make something that is natural and beautiful with different types of falls to create different sounds as well as visual interest. Using boulder work to create shelves and pooling areas of the falls we then use Aquascape waterfall foam to guide the water where we want it to go and fix the liner to the Aquascape biofalls and naturalise it with cobbles and pebble.
Washout is an important part of the build also as it not only flushes out all the mud and excess nutrients brought in on the pebbles and rocks but also pushes the smaller pebbles in tightly behind the rock work to create more structural integrity. Once the washout is complete the process of edge dressing can begin as well as testing lights and connecting up all the plumbing and auto fill valve.
Details! They are important! Whenever I am finishing a feature, I am always trying to see the final little details to help it blend and naturalise. A log here and some plantings , an extra pebble into the waterfalls or some sheets of harvested moss can make all the difference. This is one of my favourite parts of the build as well because we get to see our vision come together and add plantings and mulch as well as present the client with their brand new finished Pond or Water feature!
How did you learn to build water features?
NatureBuild are Master certified Aquascape contractors and have dedicated ourselves to gaining as much practical and theoretical knowledge as possible.
Attending Pondemonium at Aquascape headquarters in St Charles , Illinois , Competing in and winning waterfall building competitions , Completing Online training through Aquascape Australia and the Aquascape Academy as well as working with the best water feature artists in the world are just some of the many ways we have developed our craft.
When we became Certified Aquascape Contractors, our eyes were opened wider than ever realising there was a whole tribe of dedicated water feature professionals with mountains of knowledge to share as well as online training and seminars!
We have travelled to USA , Europe and all over Australia to sharpen our skills and work with some amazing water feature artists as well as experts in limnology (the study of freshwater ecosystems) This year we were lucky enough to win a competition for our water feature at Clifftop@ Hepburn which we got to travel to Belgium to the Firestone Building Products University to learn about EDPM lining and techniques. We were also part of the Artist of the year build at Wildlife HQ which was a great day completing a pondless waterfall inside one of the enclosures that will house the new White Cheeked Gibbons when they arrive.
More than just a Water feature!
When we talk about water features people often underestimate the beauty as well as the practical uses that they have in homes and businesses all over the world.
We often build large boulder waterfalls to assist in soil retention and specialty Erosion Management projects, the project pictured was for the award-winning Clifftop @ Hepburn in which we took a steep slope leading towards their new villas which was creating erosion problems exposing services and risking the structural integrity of the footings for the overhead boardwalk and turned it into an amazing feature.
After planning and discussions, we formulated a solution using 110m2 of Firestone 1.14mm Geogard EDPM Liner to create a natural recirculating waterfall at the front of the villa entry. This not only addressed the erosion problems by adding drainage , geotextile fabric and heavy duty Firestone liner topped with 40 tonnes of highland slate to retain the slope but also created a surface catchment area that was fully lined and collected into a Aquascape pondless water storage reservoir at the base of the waterfall to maximise water catchment through the winter. The result was a stunning waterfall view from the villa windows as well as an erosion management solution for the problem area.
Pondless waterfalls, streams and intake bays are also fantastic for creating Rain water harvesting systems using the pondless reservoir as a catchment for down pipes or tank overflows to maximise your catchment storage so the water feature can be self-sustainable through the summer months as well as having a water source that can be utilised for watering gardens , permaculture and wildlife.
Fish and Garden ponds are a beautiful addition to any property, watching an ecosystem grow and develop is a fantastic experience for kids and adults alike. Ponds and waterfalls attract lots of native flora and fauna that love to come and splash in the stream or drink from the pond but its even more than that!
Ponds can decrease the outside ambient temperature by several degrees in the summer to add a cool breeze to your home or outdoor area. We build ponds of many sizes including recreation ponds that are not only fantastic for wildlife, look beautiful all year round with a perennial water garden and are fantastic to cool off in the summer but they also create a large water storage area that in conjunction with a firefighting pump could be a lifesaving fire management tool in your backyard.
Last year we spent around 4 months working on the incredible Lake Gkula at Woodford folk festival which was designed, and project managed by Waterscapes Australia. Lake Gkula is the largest manmade Ecosystem lake in the southern hemisphere, made for swimming during the festival as well as creating a regenerative ecosystem for the endemic fish species and wildlife of the area.
It was a fantastic Opportunity to not only work closely with Patrick Handley from Waterscapes Australia who was the 2019 Aquascape Artist of the year and his crew. But to also be part of a one of the most epic ecosystem water feature builds in the world.
We loved developing relationships with the other contractors who we worked closely with and sharing knowledge and ideas , as well as having developed friendships which is unlike most other industries.
Whilst working on another project with Watescapes in QLD I got the opportunity to visit Lake Gkula again and take a few hours to snorkel the crystal clear waters , watch the fish schooling and check out the beautiful tropical water lillies and aquatic habitats.
I am thankful that my childhood joy became my passion and my passion became my career and I will always continue striving to create amazing projects , increasing my skills and knowledge, building relationships with other great people around the world and most importantly help clients to enjoy the Aquascape lifestyle and enjoy the quality of life that comes from nature and water features.