Say "landscape" in the Southwest and most people think rocks, boulders and cactus. Just about any type of landscaping will work in the Southwest. Sometimes plants must be protected from the sun in the summer months and a source of water must be available for all but native plants. Water features add a cooling calming aspect to your backyard.
Water Feature Basics
Water features such as ponds, fountains and fish pools add a focal point to a backyard. Locate the pond near a water source so refilling it isn't a chore. The hot dry weather will cause water to evaporate more quickly than you think. If the pond or pool is to have a filter or pump, consider how electricity will be provided.
Be prepared to rent a jackhammer to get through any caliche. Caliche is rock hard and common in the Southwest.
Observe building code restrictions and city or town ordinances when building the water feature. Fencing may be required or the pond may have to be inspected to adhere to building codes.
Avoid that hassle by building a zero clearance fountain. The water circulates through an underground basin. The basin is filled with rocks so the depth of any accessible water is less than two inches.
Fountains come in many shapes, colors and sizes. A pedestal fountain usually doesn't have plants or fish because the water is too shallow and becomes too warm in the Southwest sun. The fountain will require cleaning once every few months to get rid of any algae. Fountains are easily obtainable and require little in the way of special installation. They are heavy.
Ponds are available as preformed vinyl forms. It's a simple matter of digging a hole that follows the shape of the vinyl form. Inserting the form into the hole and filling with water. Many of the forms have ledges and shelves for water plants.
Ponds may also be dug free form with a plastic liner placed in the hole to retain water. Surround the pond with rocks and plants for a finished look.
Concrete ponds are best built by a professional. While concrete looks easy to use, it's tricky. If not done properly, the concrete can crumble, crack and deteriorate. Concrete ponds will require treatment to get rid of chemicals in the concrete that may harm fish and plants.
Building a waterfall to complement the pond is a task for ambitious gardeners. The sound of falling water is soothing and blocks out neighborhood noise. The glint of sunlight on the water is pleasant to look at.
Water Plants and Fish
Water plants and fish add a natural look to a backyard pond and waterfall. Unless the backyard is securely fenced with 5 foot high block wall, expect wildlife. Coyotes can and will jump a fence if they are able to see what's on the other side. Rabbits, packrats and kangaroo rats squeeze through rod iron fencing to get a drink of water. Birds will bathe in the pond and of course drink. Some birds, such as hawks, eagles and herons will feast on the fish once they know the fish are there.