Water Features and the Green Revolution
|By CHRIS HOLT|
I live in the Northwest. By most accounts, this area is considered to be the epicenter of the “green” revolution. According to Popular Science magazine, the region contains three of the nation’s Top Green Cities: Portland and Eugene, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington. In these cities, drivers of hybrid cars are not championed as heroes of the environment as they often are in other parts of the country. Why drive at all when you can walk or ride a bike? This is a fairly common attitude for residents of the nation’s rainiest region.
Here, the local newspapers are constantly informing their readers about the latest “green” trends and the various ways they can help the environment. For example, one Northwestern newspaper recently encouraged its readership to let their lawns go brown during the summer. A beautiful lawn may be important, but it’s nowhere near as important as being green.
The attitudes of those in the Northwest accurately represent the mindset of those involved in the green movement. Make no mistake about it, the movement is spreading. The trend towards environmental sustainability is not going away.
This is good news for pond builders and landscape contractors who specialize in water feature installation. Members of the green movement will account for a significant percentage of the future generation of water feature consumers. By knowing what’s important to them, contractors will be poised to greatly expand their customer base.
For green conscious customers, power consumption and evaporation are significant concerns. Water features typically function as evaporation machines and power vacuums. They often run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even when homeowners are not around to enjoy them.
While levels of evaporation vary depending on climate conditions such as temperature and humidity, it is always an issue; the only question is to what degree? As long as a water feature is running, surface water will evaporate and the pump will consume energy. With that said, how do we accommodate the “green-buyer”?
Depending on design elements, some water features are more conservation friendly than others. Over the years, ponds have become the most popular style of water feature. However, they are the least effective in conserving water and energy. All the water in a pond is essentially surface water, making it extremely vulnerable to evaporation. Additionally, most ponds have pumps that run constantly.
In an effort to be environmentally conscious, many contractors install ponds that utilize two pumps. Doing so is similar to driving a hybrid car: it’s good, but there are probably better options. In many two-pump pond installations, a waterfall’s flow is reduced, which may decrease energy consumption. But the abundance of surface water makes it hardly resource conscious.
However, there are ways to design water features that maximize efficiency. To conserve water and energy, pump usage must be reduced and the amount of around-the-clock surface water needs to be minimized. This can be accomplished through simple design reconfigurations. Remember, you don’t have to sacrifice size or aesthetic elements, simply reconfigure the design to be more green-conscious.
A smaller pond with a larger stream that vanishes underground when not in use minimizes the amount of exposed surface water, which will greatly reduce the likelihood of evaporation. This can be accomplished by utilizing a small underground containment system with two pumps. A small energy efficient pump runs continuously to provide oxygenation and water movement using small circulation jets. The larger waterfall and stream pump only run when desired, which will save a considerable amount of energy.
When the larger pump is turned off, both the waterfall and stream vanish into an underground reservoir, leaving only the smaller pond at the surface. This is the perfect solution for the customer who wants to enjoy the ambiance of a full-size pond, but also wants to minimize evaporation and maximize energy efficiency. This slight reconfiguration accomplishes a fullsize water feature with a greater allowance for resource conservation.
But why stop there? The new generation of green customers pride themselves on having a greater ability to conserve than their neighbor! If you’re looking for a new way to attack the market this year, install a system that completely vanishes. Vanishing water systems allow you the ability to create a stream and/or waterfall with an optional shallow pool at the end of the feature.
The pooling effect offers the character of a pond, and gives a natural finish to streams and waterfalls, as water rarely disappears into a bed of rocks in nature. Give your customer the ability to control when water and energy is consumed or conserved. A vanishing water system allows all water to disappear from the surface when the pump is turned off, keeping it out of sight in underground storage devices. With no pump running, there is no surface water, which means no water continually exposed and, therefore, no water lost to evaporation.
Ask any of your customers if they leave the lights on in their house. Most would tell you they only use them when they need to. A beautiful water feature that is easily turned on and off to conserve water as well as electricity is practical for any homeowner. It gives the new era of environmentally conscious consumers exactly what they desire. By offering your customer control over water and electrical expenses, you offer yourself the chance at a bigger sale upfront, and a great reference for your business.
Water and energy conservation is becoming more popular by the day. Different styles and types of water features require different amounts of water and energy and are subject to varying levels of evaporation. The future of our industry relies on our ability to keep up with the needs and wants of our customers. If we are going to appeal to the constantly growing number of green conscious customers we must reconfigure our traditional pond and waterfall designs. By offering our customers not only a beautiful aesthetic addition to their landscape, but also an opportunity to be an active participant in a “green” lifestyle, we are better serving both our customers and our environment.