The Right Way to Add Lighting to Your Backyard Water Feature


Water features, perhaps more than anything else, have the power to transform a common yard into a landscape. They add an entirely new dimension to a property that anchors it to the land and introduces a contemplative, rejuvenating aura you just can’t get from retaining walls, flowering trees or flower beds. But if you install a pond, waterfall or even a stream to your yard without lighting it you are not making the most of the expressive or contemplative potential of that feature. Especially in a city like Toronto where it is dark so much of the time. Below we’re going to look at the right way to introduce artificial lighting to a backyard water feature.


5 Principles of Water Feature Lighting


Not lighting your new water feature means it disappears for half of every day. By the same token just training a spotlight on your waterfall is not going to do anything to enhance its expressive potential. Here then are 5 principles for lighting a backyard water feature that will help you get the most from it.

  1. Enhance the mood – Flowing or falling water calms the soul, engages the imagination and warms the heart. Sound familiar? Well, it should because those are the same ingredients that go into creating a mood, whether in your living room or in a restaurant. Your lighting scheme should enhance the mood generating aspects of your water feature. For instance: if the predominant characteristic of your feature is cascading water get some light under those areas where the water falls from level to level. Also, lights in the surrounding flora will provide visual context.


  1. Use enough light – By this we don’t mean train as many 250 watt flood lights as possible on your feature and bleach it out. We mean make sure to install enough lights so that the different characteristics of the feature are highlighted. Think of it in terms of theatrical lighting. Because in a very real sense that’s what it is. Like the lighting director in the theatre you need to make sure your lighting establishes a background, illuminates the major players and highlights those aspects that are of special significance. Keep in mind too that dark colours are going to absorb light and lighter colours will reflect it. So plan your lights accordingly.


  1. Play with possibilities – It’s hard to predict how water, especially water in motion, is going to interact with light. In which case if your water feature includes falling or running water you may need to keep an open mind and move things around until you find just the right combination of placement, intensity and colour. The bottom line is to remain willing to tweak the lighting scheme in order to achieve the optimal result.

  1. Highlight your fish; respectfully – Few things are as compelling as a fish pond with submersible lighting. It’s going to get people’s attention and hold it. You may even find yourself adding a bench to the perimeter of such a pond just so you can sit out there on those warm lazy evenings and watch the carp slide to and fro. But while lighting a fish pond will elevate it into the stratospheric heights of backyard landscape elements keep in mind that your fish will need some place where they can go to escape the light. It doesn’t have to be much. Just a small cave or two built into the side of the pond where they can go to rest their eyes.


  1. Use LEDs – In the past landscape lighting was often a painfully expensive proposition that resulted in huge spikes to the electric bill. Today, however, we have light emitting diodes. Commonly known as LEDs. These revolutionary fixtures produce clean, glare-free light in whatever colour you want. And the best part? They use only a tiny fraction of the energy the incandescent floods of the past used and they can last for 50,000 hours or more. Which means the LEDs you install today could still be in service in your yard 20 years from now.


M.E. Contracting are the Toronto area’s most experienced and respected landscape design company. They can help you design a lighting scheme for your backyard water feature that will bring it to dazzling life.

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