Water Features - Further Reading

Pool Water Features

Water features can add a cool water park feel to your pool. Water features can include deck jets, bubblers, waterfalls, laminar jets, and sheer descents. Some water features come with integrated LED lighting. Each major pool equipment manufacture has their versions of water features to add to your pool.

Consider if water features are a "need" or a "want" in your pool. While they look good in pictures and in designs they add cost and complexity to a pool build as well as needing on-going maintenance. Many pool owners find that as time goes on their water features get less and less use. They discover the downsides of water features include the noise they create and the aeration from the water feature causes pH to rise requiring more frequent dosing of acid to lower the pH.

If you have a spa with a spillover you may find that is a sufficient water feature.

Design Considerations

Water Feature Sheers.jpg

Check the installation manuals for all equipment to find out the flow requirements.

  • Sheers require about 12 gpm per linear foot assuming a 3 foot elevation above the water and a 15" projection.
  • Deck jets don't require very much flow.
  • Bubblers depend on the specifics.

The main pool filter pump can often sufficiently supply a single water feature. Large water features or multiple water features need a dedicated pump and suction intake to provide the required flow rate for proper operation. The main filter pump often does not have sufficient flow rates to power water features.

Water features should get filtered water. If you have a separate dedicated pump for the water features it should have its own cartridge filter. A DE filter or sand filter should not be used for a water feature circuit. Water features have small passages for the water and without a filter dirt can clog a water feature and be difficult to clean out.

You need to know the flow rate intended for each pipe feeding a water feature. For suction, you want to keep the water velocity below 6 ft/sec. For returns, you want to keep the water velocity below 8 ft/sec.

Size 6 ft/sec 8 ft/sec
2" 63 84 gpm
2.5 90 119 gpm
3.0" 138 184 gpm

Each water feature should be plumbed separately on its own line and have a valve to balance the flow equally.

Deck Jets

Deck jets are designed to be cast into the concrete deck or gunite sidewall of a swimming pool. It can also be mounted through the sidewall of a vinyl liner in-ground or above ground pool. It is furnished with different effect eyeballs, one of which you will install in the body after the pool is complete.

Other deck jets are designed to be installed in the deck or landscaping surrounding the pool, spa, fountain, or pond. They have a swivel nozzle that produces a 5/16” stream of water. The body has drain holes to allow water to drain from the cup surrounding the nozzle into the drain cavity at the base of the body. Be sure to keep the drain holes clear of debris. To aid in draining, it is recommended to place a gravel layer beneath this type of water feature.

If more than one Deck Jet water feature is used on a pool, a PVC ball valve should be used to control the flow to EACH effect. This is because the flow and pressure requirements are so low that any difference in water pressure caused by piping length will be noticed.

Waterfall Sheers

A sheer waterfall can provide the soothing sight and sound of falling water. There are a few water effects to choose from at the time the feature is ordered:

  • Sheet
  • Rain
  • Curtain
  • Arc Sheet
  • Arc Rain

Waterfall width can be from 8 inches to 8 feet and come in various colors to blend into the installed surface.

The Waterfall sheet effect is thin, sensitive to wind, and the width of the sheet narrows the farther it falls. At fall heights above 3’, the sheet effect begins to break apart and to produce an annoying buffeting noise. A maximum mounting height of 3ft. for sheet effect is recommended.

The rain effect is less affected by wind than are sheet effects. The effect does not narrow as the fall height increases. A maximum mounting height of 6ft for rain effect is recommended.

Waterfalls are typically installed in the bond beam, just above the tile line, or in a raised wall above the bond beam. Three important considerations include: wall thickness, tile or stone thickness, and the weight of the covering concrete or stone.


Bubblers can be installed with an integrated uplight or without a light. The integrated uplight in a bubbler does not add to any other lighting in the pool. An alternative is to install a small nicheless LED light in the wall near the bubbler that both lights up the bubbler plume and the surrounding pool water.

Bubblers should be mounted no more than 12” below the surface of the water when installed as a bubbler/fountain for the best combination of water and light.

A valve should be installed on the water line to the bubbler to adjust the water flow to get the desired plume height.

Automation Control

Controlling your water features from your automation panel requires that each individually controlled feature have a diverter valve and actuator connected to the automation panel. You should plan for the number of valve actuators and auxiliary circuits needed for your water features, lights, pumps, and other devices.


Water features require periodic maintenance. They should be run every few days to get chlorinated water in the lines and ensure that algae does not grow in them.

Perform routine maintenance on the water feature cartridge filter to ensure trouble free nozzle operation. Be careful not to allow debris to enter the inlet plumbing when cleaning filters. Always flush lines after cleaning and backwash of filters.

Clogged Deck Jet

Clogged Nozzle

Water feature streams can become distorted and sluggish by debris. There is usually a screen that can be cleaned. Consult the manual for the water feature for the proper cleaning procedure.

Broken Waterfall Stream

If you have gaps in the waterfall stream then debris has lodged in the opening of the waterfall or water flow is too low.

Use a credit card or similar object and gently position it inside the opening while the waterfall is on. Slide it along the opening to the point where the debris is located and gently pull the debris through the opening. Do not use a metal tool.

If there is no debris in the opening then clean the filter and filter basket and check the position of the flow valve to the feature.


Water features should be properly winterized if you close your pool. The water lines should be blown out and jets in decks may need to be removed, plugged, or taped over. Consult the water feature manual for the proper winterization steps for each feature you have.

Waterfall sheer plumbing to the unit must be installed so water drains easily from the system. Blow out all water from the pipes and follow the normal procedures for winterizing.

If you have bubblers in a ledge that will be above the water level when the pool is winterized then be sure and save the plaster shield from installation along with the included O-ring. If these parts were not saved from installation, a replacement winterization kit can be ordered. Follow the manufacturers procedures for winterizing.