building a stream

The beginning of my stream. I am repurposing a couple of wheelbarrows I found at the side of the road and also went to Tractor Supply and got some plastic tubs. Fence will be removed.EF7325B9-13CB-491B-9E6B-A8A1ABCE4384.jpeg


Post Whore In Training
What is the water source (or will it be recirculating)? Looks like some sort of downspout output on the left.
That is the outlet of my sump pump and my property is rather wet. There is a nearby cistern for water (I like to think an endless supply) and this will be a non-recirculating stream. This is a long term project, and can go about 200 feet as my front yard slopes down and ends up at a drainage ditch, though I dont plan to flow much water. Its mostly going to be some smaller "pools" connected by "stream sections". Im also planning/slooowly working on a larger koi pond in the back.
I added one of the wheelbarrows a couple days ago and will add the other today. That will probably be followed by a stream section then a 50 gallon hard tub followed by a stream section followed by a 50, 80, or possibly 150 gallon tub followed by a small stream....A frog has already shown up and it is working nicely as there was a bunch of rain so the sump has been pumping. :dance

Doghouse Riley

Senior Junior Member
I always wanted a stream.

Back in the day when we had this for thirty-odd years which I built myself,.

Before it became this, three years ago.

I wanted to build a stream, well.. a rill...

It would meander down from the back of the garden and appear to run under the "bridge" over the return from the filter situated in a room in the garage. into our 3000 gall, five foot deep koi pool.

The plan was to have two plastic sumps, one at the back of the garden the other just behind the immitation bridge.
I'd connect the two sumps with a a reasonable sized pipe from near the top of the nearest sump to the bottom of the far one, ensuring there was about a six inch or so fall from front to back. Then fill in the void and construct the rill using pond liner, with a fall in the other direction of no more than six inches.
A small pump in the far sump fed from a socket in our summerhouse would be enough to power the rill, as gravity wouild be doing the work of returning the water. But my wife talked me out of it. There would always be a problem with leaves falling off next door's trees.
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Very nice Doghouse, please feel free to post more pics, I am very interested. Did you have fish? I love koi and will more than likely be ordering 100 from Toledo Goldfish in September(if you know of other places where I can get about 100 for "cheap" lmk, here 100 are $330, not very interested in fancy schmancy high dollar koi, just a variety of colors). I read the sound of running water attracts birds (the stream is close to my bird feeders) as well. Im also going to be putting in a bigger koi pond (30-35' liner size, maybe bigger) behind the 4 smaller ones in the back. That 80 gallon and 150 gallon will probably be used for the stream. I also have 2 more 50 gallons, a 40 gallon, and 2 kiddie pools as well. Long term project.

Here is a koi pond/bog pond combo from a while back.
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Doghouse Riley

Senior Junior Member
Thanks for the kind words.

We've had a few ponds over time.

We had this "damp window box" on the patio, I built in the mid seventies.

Then in 1985 I replaced it with this 9ft X12ft 18 inch deep goldfish pond. I used several pallets of Your stone, for the surround and the paths. I ripped up the terrazzo on the concrete raft I had laid for it at the back of the house and paved that too with crazy York stone and built a smaller one behind the shed.

I then got the "koi bug" and dug it out to 5ft, the following year!

That was quite easy, as I built the previous one with a concrete collar, so I could go straight down from the edge of the collar. The liner folded over the edge of the collar and the York stone paving and was secured by big rocks cemented over it. The sides were roofing-ply panels covered with visiscreen attached to similarly covered 3" X 2" posts. Still in good condition 33 years later. But the liner itself deteriorated.

It hasn't changed much since this, taken the same year I built it.

Three years ago, the liner developed a leak. To replace the liner, I'd have had to remove all the perimeter rocks, the pergola posts, half the waterfall and the "bridge." It was just not worth it.

When I built it in 1986 my wife asked me what I would do with it if I ever got tired of it. I told her "I have a plan."

This was it. I had a firm fill it with 20 tonnes of eco-friendly hardcore and pave over it. I'd drilled several holes in the concrete screed base so the paving drains freely.

This Massarelli fountain sits over what was the pump sump, so I was able to use the electrical connection to power it.

The cables are in conduit and buried under the collar to "mission control" in the garage.

The sockets under the consumer unit are for various functions in the garden controlled by the switches in the lounge.

I've a multi-strand armoured cable buried in the raft under the patio, connected to switches behind our lounge curtains, so I can turn on the fountain and several sets of lights in the garden.

Here's a couple of videos, "before"

and "after."

All the landscaping and building work I did myself. Including the authentic looking Japanese lanterns the six feet pagoda. They are made of concrete with a skim of dyed mortar and our "Japanese tea house" I thought store bougt summer houses in the mid-price range looked like converted sheds which would have looked ugly from the house. It's my own design. I built it in 1987. It's my "garden den"
Still in perfect condition, no rot.

The garden is only 85ft long, two thirds of it 18ft weide, the bottom bit 30ft wide. Typical of smsll semi-detached houses.

The koi went to a friend two doors away in four trips in this, he built a koi pool about eight years ago, .

This photo of my "tub" will give you an idea how big these fish are.

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Slowly but surely. Pic from a couple weeks ago, has not changed. Need to level the bottom 50 gallon and slightly raise a low spot on the side of the lower wheelbarrow, but other than that, flowing nicely when the sump pumps. About 15 feet away and off a gutter I put in a 110 gallon(what I thought was an 80 gallon in the pic in #8 was actually 110 gallon). I will probably put in one or two more ponds (also picked up a 100 gallon and a 300 gallon)then order about 50 3-4" koi. The birds and chipmunks are really liking it so far.

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Senior Member
My rain gutter diffuser block.
My neighbor across the road was hoarding granite remnants in a huge pile, for some reason. He started to bury it with his tractor, and, then he died. His estate manager looked quite confused when I asked if I might have the remaining pile.
I made this with it:
DSCN6222 copy.jpg

You can see features like sink cut-outs, and all sorts of odd cuts. I used the pieces as they were found, no extra cutting.
The gravel around it is handmade from the same rems; hammered with a small hand sledge.
It is probably 6' tall, vertically. It is made from 3/4" thick granite slabs, laid horizontally, but vertically stacked. It contours the native terrain features of that area.
The pond at the bottom, it fills, and, slowly drains through a thick layer of oak leaves, and native decomposed granite, and causes no erosion. It drains to emptied within a couple of hours of the rain stopping.
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Señor Member
This is a great thread :)
We had a small (8 foot diameter) goldfish pond when I was an adolescent. My father & I built it, based on a concept published long ago in The Aquarium magazine, using a swimming pool liner. There was a good retail source for water lilies and other pond/bog plants in the northern suburbs of Baltimore in those days, very close to my high school. It provided quite a few years of enjoyment for us and later for my parents for some time after I was grown up and moved away.

I wish we had a pond here. Our neighbors have a nice one, though.
The beginning of my stream. I am repurposing a couple of wheelbarrows I found at the side of the road and also went to Tractor Supply and got some plastic tubs. Fence will be removed.View attachment 37296
This is a fun thread.

We have this in our front yard. The prior owners of the house did all of the hard work. The stream is seasonal and is fed primarily by surface water runoff and maybe some natural springs. The water runs over a flagstone spillway, over a rock dam, through a culvert under our driveway and then to our neighbor's property. Our neighbor downstream has a meandering creek that feeds a small pond. The water then proceeds to a creek that feeds into Lake Washington and then the Puget Sound.

The stream has been dry for a few months because Seattle summers are virtually without rain. The rains will return shortly and we will again enjoy the sight and sound of running water.

Our "stream" of street water runoff is legally considered a salmon spawning stream and is protected. We have some building and landscaping restrictions because of the stream. I have seen water fowl in the little pond area but no fish.


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Senior Member
Ah yessssss,.... flowing water.
My old neighborhood had an efficient water runoff drainage system, until a developer decided to completely remove an entire hill that separated our community from a different drainage of several hundred acres. When that hill was removed, that several hundred acres opened straight up onto us.
Then, we were hit by a massive El Niño system over the Pacific Ocean, and, that recently graded area poured onto our community like a large western river reshaping the terrain. It brought a huge amount of silt along with it, and, that blocked an underground pipe that was meant to deliver water from the edge of our community, and deliver down to a road likely 80' lower than where it started.
The grading project was for an area of three full-size golf courses, and, homes around them.

Now, in California, if you break so much as a teaspoon of soil, you'll need dozens of sandbags to ensure that that teaspoon of soil doesn't cause siltation, and, damage to any water sources. In our instance, there was at least a couple of miles of perimeter that should have been sandbagged, continuously around the property, and several bags high.
There were absolutely none in place.
I called the county inspector, who came out, and, announced to me that he was retiring, and, he sided with the developer, entirely, stating that everything was perfectly in place and fine.
There was not a single sandbag in place, despite a small mountain having been removed and reshaped.

So, I jumped into action, and, ordered thousands of sandbags, a 100' length of flex pipe, and started fixing what was wrong, at least within the community, as we had had a severe silt flow throughout 214 units of townhomes, blocking streets, having cars stuck in mud on the roads, to their axles. The silt was so deep that emergency vehicles could not make it into the community, and they had been called in.

This was at the beginning of an intense year of rains, with some periods of rain at 9" an hour. And, our drainage system had been FUBARed.

I had proposed a fix that consisted of a down-flow channel, and plastic piping. But, the community wasn't ready to trust me, just yet.
So, they hired a civil engineer, who laid out a plan to fix the system, but, we had to get through the winter first. His temporary fix consisted of a flat sheet of plastic from the top of the hill, to the bottom, and, that water would run-off the hill, down 90' of 2:1 steep slope, and, that the plastic sheet would hold through the winter. NOT!
That plastic sheet came untucked, and flapped in the first slight breeze, and heavy fog. It flapped like a flag, offering no protection.

So, I, along with the property manager, who believed I could properly fix the situation, after much discussion, called an emergency meeting of the BOD, and, they granted me the right to fix it properly. We had a series of equally large storms lined up all the way to Japan, and, we had only a couple of days to make this work.
I started by building a fortress at the top of the FUBARed hillside drain, like military grade bunkers, and I made a channel of sandbags down the slope, two parallel rows of sandbags likely 4' tall, and I lined it with heavy plastic sheeting, flexible piping, and weighted it all down with sandbags. I also made a series of silt and debris filters upstream, to capture anything that might come down that would block the pipe; in the original flooding, we had branches, and debris in an excess quantity that destroyed the permanent pipe. I had to maintain all of those filters, likely over more than a mile of community v-ditches.
For that whole winter, I was out maintaining the system in every storm, because, I lived on the edge of this damaged slope drain, and, the professionals were proving to be completely incompetent fools, including the county inspector, and civil engineer.
The inspector was retiring, and, was supporting the golf courses effort as being perfect (probably offered a lifetime of golfing for his efforts).

Then, after I managed to save the community with my improvised fix, which worked perfectly, they offered me the chance to design a permanent solution. This is that design.
Outside my front door; the street we lived on was called El Rio.

Front sidewalk to my door:

This flow ^, was about 30' from hitting this brow ditch at the edge of a 90' near vertical slope that was held together with cribwall cement structuring that was severly damaged in the initial flow The damage was that the flows had scoured out all of the backfill gravel from behind the cribwall structure. That was gravel-rocks that measured up to 3" thick that had been scoured out.

This is the 3' v-ditch at the edge of the damaged retaining wall:

My house is the last one shown on the right, the furthest out in the image. For the entire winter/spring, I dealt with flows like this, with a totally compromised downslope drain. I had to get it downslope safely and efficiently.

Then we get to where I designed the new permanent downslope drain. I went to a channeled surface flow, rather than a pipe. I included flow checks that, if a person ended up going over the edge, would likely kill them, and tear them apart before they got to the bottom. So, I included a fence at the top, to keep people from dying in it.


The bones grinder, when dry:

That is my most intense drainage effort to date; though there are others.
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Senior Member
I hope I'm not highjacking here (I am),....

So, how thrilled was I to have sold that place?,.. and we moved on to a new one, leaving that drainage quagmire to their professionals. At least I left it as a functioning system for them. But, they didn't know the combination of tactics to make it truly work, the upstream filters and flow checks. Mehh,.... its their issue now, not mine.

We move to our new place in late winter 2012, and, no real rain event to mention that year,.. at least until the next year. Damn!
Our new place had a hidden lurking issue that the previous owner did not disclose. We had a seasonal stream that was not naturally located. And, whgere it entered my property, it changed flow directions at a whim, like a gopher mound, or grass tuft might change its flow, and it would enter into different areas, which helped to disguise its presence.

My place is at the bottom of a hillside that is probably 10 acres of steep hill side. In 2008, after severe fires went through here, the rich neighbor above us, decided to have a fire road graded along the bottom of this hill. That fire road turned a naturally draining hillside into a gutter that directed that 10+ acres of hillside into a seasonal stream that emptied onto my property.

Because I was new to the area, I had no idea who owned that land, as her house was on the other side of the top of this same hillside, and not seen from my side. So, I just decided to defend my property by building a small comma-shaped wing dam to collect the flow, as it wandered substantially at my property edge. This small wing dam allowed me to focus the flows into a permanent rock creek channel that I call the Dry Creek. But, when it flows, it is like a small mountain stream now.

What I found, when it started flowing,...

There is a dead tree stump in this right-center image. It had its roots eroded by these flows, and died. You can see how much erosion there is around those roots:
In this image, you can see how easily the incoming flow is split around the grapefruit tree. The scouring on the right of the tree, led towards the house. The previous owners answer to the issue was the round landscaping timbers seen, held in place by lightweight metal sign posts.

OK,... I've had a ton of runoff and erosion control experience in my day, starting at a ski resort in Utah, and, having to get the snow melt runoff off the mountain, without silt loading a protected endangered trout stream across the bottom of the resort. We had to leave the water totally clean before it got to the stream. This was via filters, and flow checks.
I used that ski resort experience in the community fix, and, now, I needed to go there again. In realizing these flows, I started recognizing other flow damage that had occurred. I needed to devise a permanent fix.

To this end, I developed this wing dam, to catch, and focus the flow into a single point source where it enters into my dry creek channel.
Left wing:

The right wing is sacks of concrete, stacked dry, and allowed to get wet, and harden in the rain. They are faced with scalloped lawn edging, and, made into a solid mass by wrapping the whole lot in poultry fencing.
right wing:

Those wings focused the flow into the top of my to be developed dry creek, starting with hauling in tons and tons of rocks (hundreds of tons, eventually):

TYhis wall is at the end of the dry creek channel. Its intent was to keep the flows from splitting, and, moving towards the house. The creek hits the backside of this wall, where it curls into itself, presenting an armored face to prevent the water from eroding it. The foot-base of the wall is buried at least two courses below grade to prevent undermining.
And, that wall fighting off a flow that breached the system. It held:

This dry creek system, flowing, and with Bach: Tocatta and Fugue as background (my master of a pipe organ recital)
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Doghouse Riley

Senior Junior Member
I've since got rid of our little "frog pond"

The roots of the acer palmatum over time had lifted the concrete collar of the pond and I was concerned that it might suffer for it.
I'd put a new liner in over the old one about fifteen years ago as it had started to leak. When I took them out the roots of the acer had grown between the two liners!

Also, over time because of the shadow cast by the acer, lilies wouldn't grow in it. So I decided to fill it in. I'd have liked to continue the brick pavers round up to the coping under the lamp and paved over the rest of the pond, I've enough bits of York stone to do it. But these particular bricks pavers are apparently made of "unobtanium," no one's got any, so it was a bit of a compromise involving 10 sixty litre bags of potting compost and top soil. The mortar's a bit damp here, but it dried out to the right lighter shade. I guess if the bricks ever become available again I could still do it. But this will do for now.

We'll still get frogs in our garden, we had them before we had any water in it. But I guess they won't be two pleased about me removing their home, (one was on the rockery watching me pump it out).
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Not hijacking at all, I love what you have done Mike! You have put in crazy hours of work and sweat and it shows. Looks great and works great! Enjoyed the video as well!

Good stuff doghouse, thanks for sharing! Crazy how the roots grew that big bw the liners but actually not that surprising as that is where there was water and the direction they had to go to reach more water.

I just passed a cut up swingset with a long plastic slide (semicircular cross section) at the side of the road that I will probably go pick up to use for my first "stream" section(line with 4 or so layers of fairly thick plastic that covered my prefab house when it was delivered). I was already planning to do this with another plastic slide from a swingset, but this one is longer and shallower. I could probably just use the plastic covering my house, but figure the thicker tougher plastic from the slide will provide extra protection from critters (lots of moles, also groundhogs, etc) and roots.
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