How to Design a Pondless Waterfall

The waterfall — it may be a simple combination of running water and gravity, but there is something magical about the result. That element of wonder is most noticeable in giant-scale examples like the famed cascades of Niagara or Iguazu. Yet you need not look any further than a small trickle streaming off the roof after a rainy day. The sight and sound can astonish you or relax you.

If you are a fan of waterfalls, you can witness their splendor every day by installing a water feature in your backyard. You are not even required to also be a fan of ponds, or any other bodies of water into which these torrents flow. Best of all, you do not need to hire someone else to set it up and decorate it. Your personal pondless waterfall can be shaped to your will — and perhaps with help from a friend. Here is some information on how to design this fixture.

pondless waterfall over rocks

Understand How Waterfalls Can Work Without a Pond

The term “pondless waterfall” may be confusing at first glance. How can such a fixture work without a continuous source of renewed water, like natural waterfalls? Where does the water even go once it falls? Would it even look nice if it appears to splash onto the ground?

The contradiction in the term may seem strange, but there is a method to making it work. Beneath the decorative gravel on which the cataracts will splash is a hole, and within the hole is a special pump. This equipment stores water when the fixture is off and recycles the water when it is on. It connects to the top of the fixture via a hose, allowing it to shuttle fallen water all the way up for a continuous loop.

Ideally, all of these components will remain out of sight — hence the hole hiding the pump. All you can really see is the dazzling result: a waterfall sinking into a bed of rocks, yet never running dry. Knowing how it works will show you what exactly is possible and inform all your design choices.

Break Out the Shovel and Prepare to Dig

Unless your yard already features a perfectly nice hole that can hold the pump, you will need to make it yourself. The same goes for the path of the waterfall, a tilted trench stretching several feet in length. Once you find a good location for installing and displaying the fixture, you and a buddy can start digging.

Beginning with the hole may be the best strategy if your backyard does not slope enough for your trench. As you displace the earth, you can pile it up and add some real height to the waterfall’s base. You may want to acquire extra soil from elsewhere and fortify the structure with concrete blocks.

Once you put in all this hard work, you will need to cover up any evidence of it. Drape everything, from the top of the trench to the hole itself, with the underlayment. Then, lay down the liner and smooth it out. Please note that if the last drop is a high one, you risk losing water in the ensuing splash. Spread the liner between 1.5 and 3 inches for every foot in that final fall.

water falling over rocks with grass

Position the Rocks to Shape the Flow

Between burying the pump and installing the weir is the time to create the waterfall itself. We do not mean the trench, which should already be dug at this point. We are referring to the rocks on which the water will splash, ricochet, and trickle. These will define the appearance and direction of your waterfall.

Lifting a bunch of stones into place is not always easy, and having another set of hands on deck may be necessary. On the plus side, this is the moment to highlight your flair for the dramatic. Different positioning for each rock will create a different flow. Instead of letting it run down the slope in a dull straight line, you can shift the course for a more exciting and dynamic presentation.

That presentation may not pan out, however, if the water falls through the cracks between the rocks. Some of these gaps only need a little gravel for successful blockage, but for everything else, there is waterfall foam. If you spray a little in those spaces, it will expand and leave little to no space for seepage. A clever combination of all these elements will allow you to bend the flow to your will.

pond linerAtlantic Filterfall

Get Everything You Need in a Pondless Waterfall Kit

Now that you have a better understanding of building a pondless waterfall, you only have one obstacle blocking you from getting started: acquiring the materials. This step sounds simple enough, but you actually need quite a few things to set up the fixture, and they are not always so obvious to find.

As we mentioned near the beginning, you will need a pump capable of storing and funneling the water. Likewise, you will need a mechanical weir for the top of the waterfall, and the hose that connects the two devices. A liner is required for protecting the groundwork, with the help of an underlayment that should go under to provide the liner with an extra layer of protection. There may be more pieces still.

Luckily, you can make things much simpler for yourself by getting your hands on a pondless waterfall kit, like the ones from Savio. This company’s sets are jam-packed with high-quality equipment, allowing you to build and maintain a fabulous waterfall. All you would need to add are the rocks and plants, and you will be good to go.

Savio Pon Free Package

Pondless Waterfall Kits at Aquatic Ponds

You can find Savio pondless waterfall kits right here at Aquatic Ponds, home of high-quality products for installing backyard ponds and other fixtures. In addition to these bundles, we also offer many of these parts separately, as well as parts of the same kind from other manufacturers. Feel free to explore our store and find the equipment that will make your vision a reality.