Newbie - Aquablox / Waterfall Well / Pump Vault?


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Hi there!

We're pondering / planning on putting in a pondless waterfall feature. I'm confused though - by a lot of things really, in general... - but specifically right now in this context about what it is exactly that I need at the bottom. Aquascape complete kits (which by the way seem lovely but also really expensive) have both a pump vault and some number of aquablox, while a kit from Savio has just a waterfall well. Does a person need both a waterfall well or a pump vault (sort of assuming, perhaps dangerously, that those are the same thing) AND some number of something like aquablox?

Any insight / advice that is even remotely on topic is welcome. I'm sure it will all be useful. Clearly some amount of proper material here is necessary, but it seems to me that I should be able to do this for somewhere in the range of $1000 and not $2000+ as is the price of these complete kits. (P.S. I don't need lighting)

Thanks in advance!
 
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Welcome to the GPF!

So a pondless waterfall would include some kind of contraption to create the waterfall - either a waterfall box or a waterfall spillway. That's the top. Then you need the bottom - the reservoir. The Aquascape style is a pump vault plus Aquablox - the vault holds the pump obviously and the blocks increase the amount of water you can hold in a smaller space. The whole basin is lined with EPDM rubber.

Does that help at all?
 
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Echoing what Lisa said. Here are the things you need to successfully build a pondless waterfall:

1. A liner. Obviously you need this to keep the water in the system.

2. A way to output the water at the top of your falls. This could be a manufactured waterfall weir, a 5 gallon bucket inside your liner, dug into your berm, or even just the end of your pipe spitting water out if it's a slow, trickling pond and you have a little pool to dump the water in at the top of the falls.

3. Boulders and gravel. To actually create the falls and make it look good. Also, whatever other decorative stuff you want like wood or moss.

4. A water basin. This is where the water lives at the bottom of your falls. It needs to be big enough to hold all the active water in your stream x2 or 3 so that the pump always has enough water in the basin to keep pumping. This is what the aquablox are for. You could also do it by stacking milk crates upside down as long as you're not putting 1000+ lbs. boulders on them. You could also just use gravel. But gravel reduces water holding capacity by about 70%, so you need a REALLY BIG excavation to hold all the water you need compared to using aquablox or milk crates. There are also stormwater management products from pro plumbing supply houses that would work if you want to go that route.

5. A way to access your pump. This is what the pump vault is for. Sits in the basin with your aquablox and makes it easy to check water level in the basin and access your pump for service. You could also use a sump pit/basin that big box stores sell. Or you could cut a hole in one of your milk crates and just set the pump down inside. Pump needs to pull from the very bottom of your basin.

6. A pipe and fittings to get your water from the basin to the waterfall weir.

There are bad, good, and excellent ways to DIY all of these components at much less cost. But it might cost you a lot of time to figure it out. Depends on how valuable your time is. The professional grade materials just make everything easier and more dependable. Often worth the cost.
 

j.w

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P.S. I don't need lighting)
You'll regret not putting in lighting.

There many ways to make a pondless waterfall.
The larger the underground vault the more water you can collect from mother nature. And not run up your water bill.
The pump vault is just that an area where there's an opening large enough to drop in your pump. Now it all depends what type of feature you want a trickling waterfall with moss and LIGHTS can be as equally amazing as is a waterfall or stream and small falls. They all have there plus and minus. But if you lean toward a dripper a smaller trickle a smaller pump can be used and thus aquablocks alone can do the job still not cheap but.... most important things are water splashing and t he need for water replacement . Algae growth and lights. One of the coolest pondless I saw was a staked slate earn with water barely running and the moss had over grown the entire earn with lights. It's on you tube it was a aquascape video if I remember correctly.
 
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Thanks a lot everyone for your replies. Much appreciated!

This image here on this page sort of confused me: https://pondsonline.ca/savio-8-ft-pondfree-waterfall-package.html

553c63d8e0c02-savpf462.jpg


It seems to show just a "pump vault" (aka waterfall well) surrounded by some loose rock. Which I guess you're saying would work if that provided enough of a water reservoir (which it likely would not)? I think I read a calculation somewhere for how big my reservoir needs to be based on the length and depth of the run. I'll look again, but if anyone has such a thing handy please feel free to share :)

The top - the waterfall box / spillway / weir - I'm assuming that this is "required" for its aesthetic affect? I understand that, as no one wants just the end of a pipe spraying a narrow stream of water out the top (unless as combatwombat said above, "... it's a slow, trickling pond and you have a little pool to dump the water in at the top of the falls"). But just so I understand, it's not really a "functional" requirement, right?

I'm sure this is a lovely, complete kit, but man... it just seems a little pricey to me.


Thanks again!
 
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it all comes down to water in motion as the drawing is. is you have 500 gallons of water that is constantly on the falls part of the picture below then you need double that to feed the falls and if the power goes out to contain all that water. For a staked slate not so much.
 
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It seems to show just a "pump vault" (aka waterfall well) surrounded by some loose rock.

Yep, that will work. You just have to size the basin correctly, and a basin full of gravel will have to be about 3x as large as a basin with aquablox. If you have the space and don't mind 1) more digging, 2) more liner and 3) more gravel then that will work fine.

I'm super frugal myself and, at first, thought that water matrix blocks were stupid expensive. I still think they are, but I also think they're worth it for the labor they save you and the accessibility they provide (a lot less stuff to move if you ever have a problem in your basin).

Again, milk crates are cheap and probably have about 1/5 the compressive strength of aquablox (about 1,000 lbs/ft² vs 5,500). Large drainage pipes would also work.

I think I read a calculation somewhere for how big my reservoir needs to be based on the length and depth of the run.

((Avg. length * Avg. width * (0.25 * Avg. depth)) * 7.48) * 2.

Here's that broken down if it's helpful:

  1. Avg. length x Avg. width (in feet) gets you to surface area.
  2. Avg. depth (in inches) * 0.25 gets you to depth of water in motion.
  3. Surface area * depth of water in motion gets you to volume of water in motion.
  4. Volume * 7.48 converts your units to gallons.
  5. Gallons * 2 tells you how many gallons your basin needs to store.
 
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My but there are some helpful users on here! Thanks again. Learning lots.

Would your real world experience more or less agree with this pump calculator that would suggest a pump that produces 3,000 GPH @ 5 Feet of Head Pressure for a water feature with estimated head height of 3', discharge width of 2' and tubing of 15'?


I certainly want enough pump, but I also don't want too much as I'm leaning towards a lower flow, more "gentle" falls and creek.

Thanks!
 
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Rule of thumb for "moderate" flow on a waterfall is 1500 gph per 1' of width of weir. Some also express it as 100 gph per inch. So, yeah, that sounds about right. If you want a more gentle flow, you could knock it down a bit. Here's a video with common flow rate comparisons:


One thing you could try is buy a bigger DC pump. They're typically used on aquariums and sold as liters per hour, but they're cheap, very efficient, and have very adjustable flow rate. They don't like much head pressure at all, though, so I'd get like a 20 or even 25,000 lph pump and, at 5 feet of head you'll probably get like 3500 gph. If that's too much, you can dial it down to whatever you want and the pump will use less energy.
 
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Thanks everyone. Yea, a variable pump would solve the "math" problem but they're also expensive :|

Another question if I may. The pump vault holds the pump and makes it easy for me to service it if necessary and check water levels. But isn't the pump vault also hidden by rock, along with the rest of my reservoir (aka the aquablox)? Is the idea just to sort of try to cover the pump vault with a couple of pieces of slate or something that hide it but are easily removed, or is there a easier / better way to check water levels? Sorry if I'm missing something here ;)

Thanks!
 
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Yea, a variable pump would solve the "math" problem but they're also expensive

The variable DC pumps I was referring to are quite cheap and efficient. Probably not too durable, though.


Is the idea just to sort of try to cover the pump vault with a couple of pieces of slate or something that hide it but are easily removed
Yep. That’s the idea.
 
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The Aquascape kits include an "Automatic Water Treatment Dosing System for Fountains". That surprised me - will I need to plan on "treating" my water in any way?

Thanks.
 
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Aquascape pushes that dosing system - I'm not a big fan, but I understand why they do it. It's a consumable product that leads to repeat sales. You don't need it. Price your parts out separately and see if you can save money piecing it together.

Our pump vault lid is just buried under a layer of river rock - you'd never know it was there. You don't need to lift the lid to check water level - just watch your waterfall. You'll know when it's low.
 
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Most waterfalls seem to have at least a couple of levels / falls, meaning that there would have to be small “ponds” or stands of water above each of those then as a result, right? But one doesn’t want any amount of standing water after the pump is turned off, so how do you ensure that these small pools drain? Or is the accumulation just not worth worrying about?

Thanks!
 
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John adams in the video above is a knowledgeable pond builder who shares some of the more intricate pond building tips. The pools your asking about i would not worry about if they drain out or not BUT you need to take into consideration if they were to drain you need to have a large enough storage area to except that volume of water. IMO not having pooling areas in a stream or in a waterfall is a must it's an area where water current can be watched as the bubbles make there way down the stream or over the next area of the water fall. One of the tricks the pros use it to just run the liner build the pooling areas and then install some spray foam and place another piece of rubber outlining the pool and spray foam that as well along the edges it will not be water proof but it will divert the majority of the water to where you wat it . you tube you tube and more you tube to see and get tips for your build
 
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But one doesn’t want any amount of standing water after the pump is turned off, so how do you ensure that these small pools drain?

I think standing water would only be a problem if it was standing for a week or so, allowing mosquitoes to hatch.
 
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Thanks a lot everyone for your replies. Much appreciated!

This image here on this page sort of confused me: https://pondsonline.ca/savio-8-ft-pondfree-waterfall-package.html

View attachment 139372

It seems to show just a "pump vault" (aka waterfall well) surrounded by some loose rock.
In that drawing the pump looks surrounded by gravel.
I'm no expert in pondless water features, but I don't think you want your pump encased in gravel. You need to be able to pull the pump if you need to service or replace it.
 

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