The Starting Point

The next step in successfully designing any water feature is to understand public-health safety and welfare regulations, and apply them to a specific design. Every state has different procedures, and certain county health departments have regulations that go beyond the statutes. Understanding these regulations is critical to the success of a water-feature project.

Next, the water source must be determined. Will a well have to be drilled? Is the system going to recycle water, or pass through? Not only regulations, but upfront and ongoing costs of the system must be evaluated for the owner to understand all of the options and costs.

Integration of a water-feature system into the landscape also is critical. Are the users of the space going to see the water feature, or the water-feature equipment? Control systems, water sources, filtration, catchment and storage for water recycling, if included, must all be planned for and integrated in the final design.

The last thing people want to see or hear after the investment in a water feature is whirring and humming equipment. Landscape areas can be carefully placed to hide the water-feature equipment, keeping the attention on the feature itself.

Construction Management

Construction began on the Stevens Point downtown square in March 2011. A detailed traffic-control and project-logistics plan kept the downtown businesses open during construction. Public-input sessions and meetings with business owner groups showed the importance of keeping Main Street open and people moving through the space.

Daily cleanup and safety-control plans also were developed.

Critical services included detailed supervision, coordination, layout and project oversight of site demolition, underground-utilities installation, concrete curbing and flatwork, detailed planter and ornamental-fence installation, brick paver in pier construction, overhead-utility relocation underground, irrigation, fountain, and landscape installation.

These ensured that the owner was getting the final design as planned. The project was completed July 4, 2011.


After planning, design, bidding, and construction management, the owner of a new water feature must understand the ongoing operations and maintenance required. The manufacturer of the equipment should provide detailed information regarding seasonal maintenance procedures, replacement parts, and control equipment.

A water feature can be a powerful design element and focal point in the landscape, but it is critical to find the need, function, and proper location of that feature. With public input, and a detailed planning process, a water feature can be a new identity for revitalization projects.

John Kneer, RLA, ASLA, is a Project Manager and Landscape Architect for Rettler Corporation in Stevens Point, Wis. For more information, visit

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