10 reasons you shouldn’t install a water feature, and 10 suggestions of what to get instead


“Pretty much every new client I visit has a water feature on their list of ‘garden wants’ and every time I’m asked if we should include one, I always ask why?”

Is it to create noise (the gentle trickle of water can be really peaceful), or is it to drown out noise (from a road for example) or is it because you simply think you should?

why you should & shouldn't buy a water feature - row of fountain cubes. Garden by Bestall & Co.
Why you should & shouldn’t buy a water feature – row of fountain cubes. Garden by Bestall & Co.

Here are 10 reasons you shouldn’t get a water feature:

1. Maintenance

Water features require regular cleaning to prevent algae build-up, to ensure the pump and filters are functioning properly and to keep them smelling sweet.  If you do have one already, my advice would be to keep it running continuously to ensure oxygen is constantly introduced back into the water.

2. Water usage

Water features can consume a significant amount of water if you’re constantly topping them up.  Both splash and evaporation (even on a dull day) will reduce the water level significantly, which is a concern particularly in areas with water restrictions or during drought conditions.

3. Attraction to unwanted pests

Standing water can attract mosquitoes and other pests, which can be a nuisance and a health hazard. 

4. Safety concerns

Water features can be dangerous, particularly for young children, pets and wildlife, posing a risk of drowning.

5. Cost

Installation and maintenance of water features can be expensive. The costs can quickly add up, and don’t forget to include electricity for pumps and potential call out charges including repairs.

6. Space requirements

Water features often require a substantial amount of space, which might not be practical for smaller gardens and most large features will need some kind of balancing tank including a filtration unit.  By the time you’ve finished, you may find yourself needing a pump house!

7. Noise issues

The sound of running water, while soothing to some, can be bothersome to others, particularly if the feature is close to living or sleeping areas (and be warned, it can often makes people want to wee!)

8. Environmental impact

The construction of water features can disrupt local wildlife habitats (if adapting a pond for example or redirecting a stream) and the use of concrete can have a negative environmental footprint.

9. Winter issues

In colder climates such as in the UK, water features can freeze, potentially damaging the structure, pump and may therefore requiring winterization (emptying and draining all of the pipework).

10. Complex installation

Installing a water feature can be complex, often requiring professional help, which can be both time-consuming and costly.  Water is one of those things in life that it’s tricky to keep in (and out) of where you don’t want it.


Now you’ve read the 10 reasons you shouldn’t get a water feature, I should point out that they can be a fabulous addition to certain gardens, so to make sure you have a balanced opinion, check out this article on the 10 reasons why you should definitely add a water feature to your garden. (coming soon!)

Then, if after reading both articles, you decide a water feature is not for you, why not consider these alternative garden features as focal points instead?

why you should & shouldn't buy a water feature - sculpture fountain. Garden by Bestall & Co.
why you should & shouldn’t buy a water feature – sculpture fountain. Garden by Bestall & Co.

Here are 10 alternatives to water features:

1. Sculptures

Statues and sculpture can provide an elegant contemporary or whimsical focal point without the need for water or the maintenance associated with them.

2. Multi-stemmed flowering shrubs

Planting a standout shrub like a flowering cherry or magnolia, can create a beautiful and ever-changing centrepiece.

3. Specimen trees

These are low maintenance and can be selected to fit almost any size garden, some offering year-round interest and a habitat for birds.

4. Bird baths

A birdbath can attract wildlife without the complexities of a full water feature, providing a simple yet charming garden element (it’s also nice to watch birds splashing around having fun)

5. Garden arches & pergolas

These structures add vertical interest and can can be modern and structural or softened with climbing plants, creating a picturesque and inviting space.

6. Fire pits & fireplaces 

Adding a fire as an element can create a cosy focal point, providing warmth and a gathering spot for evening relaxation, extending the use of your garden well into the evening.

7. Garden benches & seating

A well-placed bench can serve as both a focal point and a functional seating area to sit and read or perch whilst gardening.  I love using a small bistro set as a focal point positioned somewhere for breakfast of morning coffee.

8. Ornamental grasses

Tall grasses like pampas grass (a bit 80’s?), Stipa gigantea or Miscanthus add height, movement, and texture to the garden (they also make a great semi-transparent hedge).

9. Pathways and paving

Designing intricate pathways with interesting materials or patterns can guide guests through the garden and highlight key areas (it’s the oldest trick in the book, but you’re basically designing the route you’d like your guests to take).

10. Vertical gardens

Living walls or trellis covered in plants can create a striking visual impact, making use of vertical space and adding lush greenery.  Choose your plants wisely though!

All of the above also look great up-lit, when they take on another dimension.