A Look at How Decorative Water Features Work

We see them in parks, yards, shopping malls and gardens. There's something captivating about dancing, spilling and cascading water. But how do these water features work? What makes them tick? No matter how grandiose the installation, the basic design of a fountain is fairly simple. It involves just three parts – the pump, a basin…

We see them in parks, yards, shopping malls and gardens. There's something captivating about dancing, spilling and cascading water. But how do these water features work? What makes them tick?

No matter how grandiose the installation, the basic design of a fountain is fairly simple. It involves just three parts – the pump, a basin and a length of tubing or pipe. That's about it. The outdoor fountains of Trafalgar Square may be a lot more powerful, but the function is nearly the same as that of household tabletop fountains.

This is not a DIY guide to building a fountain. Rather, an understanding of the basic components of standard water features, and their interaction, can help fountain owners and those who just want to admire the sculpture. For instance, if you find your fountain does not work correctly and you need to replace something, it's important to know how the fountain works. Also, knowing the basic makeup of a fountain will give you a greater appreciation of what's gone into construction some of the wonderful fountains you see.

So here's how these pieces work in unison:

First, there are the fountain pumps. The pump is going to be powered, either via an electrical outlet or by solar cell. Although it gets charged, the pump pushes the water vertically to the fountainhead (where the water is evacuated). Many fountain pumps have volume control settings so that people who want to build a fountain can customize the output.

Next, there's the basin. The pump needs to have direct access to at least a minimum amount of water-depending on the size of the pump and overall fountain-and the basin is what holds that water. The pump is usually submerged in this reservoir. The basin can take the form of a pool, pond or tub.

Finally, we have the tubing. The tubing is what channels the water from the pump to the fountainhead. Anyone interested in constructing a water feature or fountain of their own should make sure the diameter of the tubing (or pipe) matches the diameter of the output for their pump. Not doing so will result in a pump that is overstressed trying to push through an opening that is too small, or a slow trickle resulting from a pump that does not move an adequate amount of water through a large hose.

As far as the basic interworking – the pump takes water from the basin and vertically propels it through the tubing. Very frequently, fountains are made to recycle water by having the ejected fluid fall or drain directly back into the basin.

This circular nature is easy to see when you look at many famous fountains around the world. The basic design is fairly simple, which allows for architects and designers to use a lot of creativity when it comes to building the fountainhead, basin and the encompassing structure.

Since the pieces involved are not overly complex, it also means that fountains and water features have become popular decorative pieces in backyards and gardens. Many people find that fountains round out their outdoor space nicely, but the cyclic, contained nature of the design has also made indoor water fountains a popular addition and gift idea.