The Bright Ideas Blog

Design inspiration and outdoor lighting tips and advice for homeowners

Tips for Lighting Water Features, Ponds, and Waterfalls

Is there anything more relaxing that the sound of trickling water on a summer evening?  Property owners frequently describe the pond or waterfalls, as the feature they treasure most when I visit with them to discuss their lighting needs. 

Often, home owners install these water features to drown out distracting sounds: nearby street traffic, busy parks in the neighborhood, and other sounds of urban life that can take tranquility away from a personal outdoor setting. 


Though some add water features for the added benefit of tranquil sound, others also acquire them for the visual appeal that moving water provides.  Whatever the case, lighting really amplifies the serene setting a water feature creates for a landscape. 

After we complete the design and install water feature lighting, our clients often remark that they don't know why they waited so long to add lighting: "It's as if the landscape actually comes to life after sunset."  Light softly splashes over water falls, illuminating ponds and draping plant material in moving silhouettes and blurred shadows breathes motion and life into the scene.  Extending our living spaces and turning our dark windows into natural portraits changes the way we live.

Here are tips that we think you will find helpful for lighting water features:

  • Light with Purpose - Go out at night and ask yourself the important question, "Why Light"? When I design a lighting system, I like to be deliberate about my approach; I ask myself why  at every angle.  Adapting this approach will help you to minimize costly errors.  Get a flashlight out and go out at night; have fun seeing how things look when they are lit at night.  Imagine your flashlight is the lighting fixture that will be mounted in the ground and see how you like the angles and shadows.  For those with no experience in lighting design this simple exercise may save a lot of time.



  • Consider the Optimum Viewing Angles - It's important to consider where your landscape will be most often viewed and enjoyed.  Let's assume, for example, that your landscape is primarily enjoyed from your back patio, or even from the back windows of your home.  if this is the case then you"ll need to consider how this visual aspect can be taken into consideration when placing lights.  Lighting fixtures should be chosen carefully.  Eyelids should be used to hide glare from the viewing site.  Glare can be very distracting and should be eliminated as much as possible when creating the right effect. 


  • In or Out of the Water? - Should a water fixture go in or out of the water; that is the question.  If your pond, streams or waterfalls are maintained well and the water is kept clear then you may want to consider underwater lights.  Because the lighting effect will only be as good as the clarity of the water itself, underwater lights should only go in clear water.  Murky water will result in dim lighting.  If you do choose to go underwater with your lighting fixtures, be careful and don't be fooled into using less expensive products that might not be as water tight as others.  Use only underwater solid brass fixtures that come from a trusted manufacture.  Otherwise you will have invested your money into a product that will fail.  Trust me on this one, quality counts.   


  • Careful Fixture Placement - When placed in the right location, beneath a waterfall, for example, underwater lights, can really capture water movement and add a magical element to the design.  Our secret is to have, in addition to an underwater light, an above water light softly overlapping with the underwater light.  Doing so will create a fulfilling soft ambiance and have a very professional look to the effect. 


  • Maintenance - Maintenance should be performed on all outdoor lighting systems, regardless of being submerged in water.  Though water feature lights are obviously subject to water intrusion from being submerged, above water lights are subject to water contact when they are used around a pond or waterfalls edge.  The pond environment has a way of splashing and finding its way into the system.  A good inspection and cleaning in spring and fall is encouraged to keep your system in check. 

Remember, choosing the right lighting fixture for your system is just as important as finding the right location for the light to be placed and the right angle for it to be aimed.  If your underwater light fixture isn't able to do the job it is supposed to, because of water damage, then it would be similar to putting a fixture in your landscape without something for it to light.  In both cases, the light is rendered useless. 

With careful consideration and planning, it is possible to create a beautiful lighting effect.  But the key is to understand what you are lighting, and what the best choice will be for illuminating the various aspects of your home and landscape. 

Give Us A Call: 

To learn more about how to light your outdoor living space, call us at (801) 440-7647 to schedule a free consultation, or feel free to simply fill out a contact form.

Located in Midvale, Landscape Lighting Pro of Utah serves throughout Utah's residential areas, including Salt Lake City, Park City, Draper, Davies and Utah Counties.  Our outdoor lighting portfolio includes projects throughout Utah and beyond. 

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