How to recreate a natural water feature in your garden

How to recreate a natural water feature in your garden


With the help of the experts, you can recreate the look of a natural water feature in your own garden

There is something about water in motion that captivates us. Whether a gentle trickle from a meandering stream or a cascade from a waterfall, the sight and sound of water in motion is mesmerising — even meditative. A natural water feature can be created in a wide array of landscapes, as the impressive project pictured, Lake Gkula in Woodford, Queensland — home of the Woodford Folk Festival — proves.

Featuring a waterfall, 125 metres of private beach, an island and large rock placement, Lake Gkula, designed and built by Waterscapes Australia, is a man-made paradise created for fun and wildlife protection. It was also the winner of the Sustainable Landscape Award in the 2020 Landscape Queensland Construction Excellence Awards.

The Lake Gkula project was built on a 500-acre plot. “The excavation alone took five weeks to complete: three weeks for major earthworks and crude shaping, and two weeks for fine shaping. The ground then had to be raked free of rubble and sharps prior to laying down 9000sqm of Firestone Liner. It needed to be seamed together onsite, with each sheet weighing between 500kg-1.5 tonnes,” explains Patrick Handley, director of Waterscapes Australia.

The lake has a water surface area of 1.4 acres, is 5.5m at its deepest and holds 12 megalitres of water. “Given the size of the project, we had to carefully engineer circulation systems to provide appropriate water flow and chemical-free filtration to safely support both a budding ecology as well as swimmer loads of 5000 or more a day during an event,” says Patrick.

“We achieved biological filtration through bacteria and positive up flow filtration via the wetlands. The two wetlands also use endemic aquatic plants to support the filtration process. Aeration and heightened dissolved oxygen was achieved through the use of waterfalls, circulation and NanoBubble technology.”

Working with an environmentally focussed not-for-profit organisation, Woodfordia Inc, meant that the budget was limited, so making best use of onsite resources was vital. One example of this is the use of pre-existing dead trees and logs from the site to create habitats for breeding and territories for fish such as the Mary River Cod.

Since the lake was built, the resident Woodfordian mycologist has been recording the different species that started returning to the area. To date, it has attracted many species of frogs, birds and insects that were previously scarce in the area. These numbers and species are expected to proliferate over the coming years.

The design and construction expertise used for this large-scale project can be applied with equal success to home garden projects. Waterscapes Australia specialises in the creation of unique, site-specific natural water features which are filtered, not with chemicals, but with beneficial bacteria that support healthy aquatic ecosystems.

The systems employed by Waterscapes Australia mimic nature — and this extends to recreation or swim pond systems, which were pioneered in Australia by Patrick. With more than 25 years’ global experience, Patrick is a permaculturist, horticulturist and environmentalist who can create anything from the smallest backyard pond to a modestly-sized stream to a large lake with waterfall for an acreage property.

The possibilities are endless. There are ecosystem ponds that can support fish and aquatic plants, pondless waterfalls and streams that range from bubbling brooks to mighty cascades, and recreation ponds, which are built with an accompanying wetland for natural filtration, that can be used for swimming. A recreation pond can also be used to support local wildlife, assist in cooling a property and contribute to a fire management plan — you can even grow food in the wetland.

You can also be assured that every water feature and ecosystem is designed, not just for maximum beauty and functionality, but for the minimal amount of maintenance.

For more information

Waterscapes Australia