How many times have your customers told you that they've always dreamed of having a pond in their backyard? Uh . . . wait a minute, now let's review that. Did they say pond or did they actually say, 'I've always dreamed of having a waterfall in my backyard'?

Chances are, if you're like the majority of retailers and installers in the U.S., there's a 60% chance that your customer really described a waterfall, and you filled in the pond part. After all, to build a waterfall you first build a pond, then you add a waterfall. That's the way it has always been done, right? Well, maybe -- at least until now.

This is an exciting time in the evolution of the fledgling industry of ponds and water features. Now you can give your customers the captivating beauty and tranquil sounds of moving water without the hassle or potential liability of a pond. This is the year when you can start offering pond-free waterfalls and streams and really start to see your business grow.

Now, please don't misunderstand, ponds are great. Nothing adds richness and depth of space like a water garden in the backyard, but there's a majority of home and business owners who just simply do not have the space or time for a pond. They want water in their yards but that's it -- they don't want fish, they don't want liability and they don't want maintenance. They want a pond-free waterfall or stream.

The concept is simple. Imagine pulling up in your driveway, getting out of your car and, behold, at your feet is a babbling brook. As you look to the front door of your house, you see a magnificent cascade and the fall of water which feeds this lovely brook. Gazing downstream toward the street and the edge of your property, your mind tells you there must be a pond, but the stream actually just disappears into the ground right before engulfing the mailbox.

"How wonderful is this?" you ask yourself as you stroll along your private stream, letting the stresses of the day roll off your shoulders. All the while you're thinking: I love this stream, and it's a good thing I don't have to do anything to take care of it 'cuz the traffic was horrible' and I'm home just in time to catch the game!

2_10.jpgSound too good to be true? Well, guess again. Beside the fact that your wife probably has a few ideas of her own that don't involve you watching the game, the rest of this little tale is absolutely the honest truth!

The pond-free waterfall concept offers all the beauty of a pond without the maintenance. Unlike ponds which need to run 24 hours a day, a pond-free system operates only when the owner is there to enjoy it (not during the work day or at night when everyone is asleep) so it uses only a fraction of the electricity and water that a pond would. And because it can be shut down (and essentially hidden) at night, this system is a compelling feature for public spaces like restaurants, office buildings and front yards.

Prior to this concept, all of those areas were off limits. With pond-free systems, all potential targets of vandalism like equipment and water are rendered invisible when the system is in shutdown mode; and there is no standing water to trap children, the elderly or less nimble visitors like the occasional drunk.

The economics of pond-free systems will appeal to everyone involved. For the customer, pond-free offers tremendous bang for the buck. These systems typically take less time to install than a pond and because they do not need the filtration, sundry accessories and related maintenance that ponds require, the total cost of ownership can be less than a pond.

For installers, pond-free offers a high profile product that requires less expertise and installation time yet commands a higher margin than most ponds. While the overall job may be slightly less expensive than a comparable pond, the increased profit margin more than compensates for any loss in gross sales. The greater economies of pond-free also gives the installer a product that will have broader consumer appeal.

Furthermore, surveys have shown that pond-free does not necessarily supplant pond installations. Many existing pond owners express interest in having a pond-free system in areas of the home that would otherwise not be suitable for a pond. That means two or more water feature installations at locations where there would otherwise only be one!

6_7.jpgA number of manufacturers offer various components for the construction and maintenance of the pond-free concept. There are only a few that offer complete systems in the form of a 'pond-free package' or kit. As always, it is advisable to go with those manufacturers that offer the highest grade of equipment and have the professionalism and experience to back up the equipment they sell. Avoid the 'breadbox' or homemade-looking stuff. As a professional, the best service you can do for your customer is to provide professional-grade equipment that will stand the test of time.

For the contractor, possibilities abound in the realm of significant plant sales (the average pond-free stream will require two to five times the plant stock of an average pond). Then there are continual, if not increased, consumable sales in the form of algaecides, plant fertilizers and replacement pumps.

The pond-free concept is one of the most exciting developments in the pond industry in the last 25 years. For those installers and contractors with the foresight to capitalize on this trend early, the potential for tremendous customer appeal and terrific profits is limitless. Remember, everyone in America wants a pond or pond-free system, some of them just don'Dt know it yet!