Designing WATER features

Want to make your golf course more memorable? Just add water.

Daydream with me for a minute. Imagine sitting next to a mountain stream. Visualize the exhilarating sight of rushing water flowing over rocks and boulders. Imagine the soothing sound of water splashing on the rocks nearby and the gentle babble of the meandering stream. What a relaxing mental image!

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Wouldn't it be great if visitors carried the same soothing image away from your facility? With thorough planning, the right location and proper design and construction techniques, you may be able to provide a similarly memorable experience for your guests by creating a stream feature.

What is a stream feature? In its simplest form, a stream feature consists of a series of at least two pools or lakes that are connected by a stream channel. Water enters the top pool, spills into the stream channel, and flows to the bottom pool.

Defining your vision You must first decide on a vision for the proposed stream feature. Are you attempting to create a postcard view or a signature image for your facility? Or are you simply attempting to upgrade a particular area of the landscape? Is the stream you envision more like a raging rapids or a babbling brook? Is it important that the stream have a natural appearance, as if Mother Nature herself placed it there? The answers to these questions will guide you in selecting the proper location for the feature and determining how much the project will cost.

Location, location, location Obviously, selecting the location for your water feature is of critical importance. Sometimes the best and most logical choice for a stream feature is a spot where run-off water naturally flows after a rain event, such as an existing creek bed, swale, spillway, low spot or drainage ditch. Creating a stream feature in one of these areas will not only beautify a potentially blighted area of your landscape, but may also reduce the amount of time you spend on maintenance and erosion control.

q Elevation. Select a location for your stream feature where there is a change in elevation from the top pool to the bottom pool. Obviously, water must flow downhill. Streams with too little or no elevation change may stagnate from a lack of water movement. Your location should have a minimum elevation drop of 5 feet for every 100 feet of stream channel.

q Visibility. Choose a location that is highly visible and as close as possible to high-traffic areas. For example: Golf course areas near greens, tees, landing areas or cart paths may have great potential. Visual obstructions, such as tall plantings that block the view of the feature, should be kept to a minimum if at all possible.

q Availability of water. Depending on which method you choose, remember to consider availability of water in selecting a location. The top pool may be fed from any or all of the following sources:

Recirculation system. For this system, pipe water from the bottom pool to the top pool via a recirculation pump. Locate the submersible pump in a wet well near the bottom pool, or, if skid-mounted, on the floor of the bottom pool. With this option, you must have access to electric power.

. Irrigation feed system. In this system, the top pool is fed from the turf irrigation system. You can treat the water feature as a zone on your irrigation system. Run piping from the mainline to the pond to feed the upper pool. You can time this zone to operate when you need it to.

, Ground water system. This system, in which the top pool is fed from natural run-off and/or from a natural spring, allows you to make use of an unsightly creek or natural swale where water frequently collects. Areas of seepage can also be used to feed the system.

Work within your budget After you have decided on a location for the stream feature, contact a qualified water-feature design and construction firm. Inform them of your vision, and have them view the proposed site. Ask them to prepare a cost estimate to design and build the stream. If you have champagne tastes but you're on a beer budget, don't despair. Given the opportunity, most water-feature design and construction firms can work with you to identify modifications that can hold the project to within your price range.

Shaping your dream At the start of construction, work closely with the water-feature design and construction firm to stake the stream course, and locate the ideal spots for waterfalls and pools. After staking is complete, begin shaping the stream course. Accurate shaping is critically important to the stream's overall appearance and functionality. To facilitate movement in the water, shape in smaller 1- to 2-foot waterfalls, or step-downs, along with larger waterfalls, if elevations allow.

Build it to last After completion of stream shaping, line the stream feature with a synthetic stream liner. Installing a liner mitigates the risk of potential erosion problems and water loss caused from migration through porous soils. You should also install a layer of geotextile fabric over the liner to protect it from damage.

Next, place river gravel or cobble over the fabric in the streambed. Larger boulders can be used to line the sides of the stream. Choosing the rock to use in the stream is a subjective, but very important decision. Visit a few nearby quarries to view the rock and compare prices. Rock that is native to your area will generally look more natural and is also usually the best value for your dollar.

The higher the quantity of water expected to flow through the stream, the larger the rock must be. For most installations, use 2- to 4-inch river rock and 2- to 3-foot boulders.

You should use concrete at waterfall locations to stabilize larger rocks and to ensure that water flows over, not under or through, these rocks. You may consider installing rock outcroppings on the banks of the pools and stream to create an even more natural appearance.

The water-feature design and construction firm can assist you in specifying a pump with adequate capacity to fulfill your vision. Generally, a "babbling brook" will require a pump capable of about 300 to 750 GPM (gallons/minute) at the inflow point. A "raging rapids" will require 750 to 1200 GPM. A good rule of thumb in calculating water flow is this: Flowing water that is 1 inch wide and 1 inch deep will generate roughly 10 GPM. So if you can estimate the width and depth of your stream, you can approximate the size of the pump you will need.

Installation of a valve on the pipe feeding the upper pool is usually a good idea so that you can trim back the water flow if necessary. Also, a back-flow preventer will prohibit the water in the upper pool from draining into the lower pool upon system shut-off.

Maintenance A well-designed and properly constructed stream feature requires minimal maintenance. A regular visual inspection of the stream is a good idea. Look for any areas where boulders or cobble may have shifted, or where liner or fabric is exposed. Also, look for areas where erosion is occurring. These conditions may indicate higher than normal water flow in the stream channel due to excessive storm run-off. Make repairs as soon as possible if any of these conditions are present.

The recirculation pump will require routine preventative maintenance service, normally about every 3 years. You will need to drain pipes prior to winter in cold-weather locations.

Make an on-going effort to prevent the build-up of silt or organic materials (grass clippings, leaves, etc.) in the streambed. This will not only impede the flow of the stream, but may also cause water quality problems. If possible, plant low- to minimal-maintenance ground cover along the stream edge instead of turf.

Defining your vision of what the stream feature should look like and selecting the right location will help to provide direction for your project. Working with a qualified water-feature design/construction firm and allowing them to help you stay within your budget will bring the project to reality. Finally, build the stream feature to last and maintain it properly to ensure that visitors will enjoy your stream feature for many years to come.

- Display the OSHA Job Safety and Health Protection poster in a prominent location where workers can see it.

- Constantly update your OSHA No. 200 illness and injury log for the current calendar year and complete an OSHA 101 Form for any work-related injury or illness. Have these documents available for an OSHA inspector.

- Report any work-related injuries or illnesses involving the death of an employee or the hospitalization of three or more workers to OSHA within eight hours.

- Establish a written Hazard Communication Program that includes training for employees on any hazardous chemicals used in your operation.

- Conduct regular safety training sessions for all employees.

- Develop a "disclosure of information" policy that directs supervisors and employees on how to give out information if your business is contacted by an OSHA inspector.

- Ask for an "opening conference" with any OSHA inspector who shows up to investigate a complaint.

- Keep your cool, and don't act belligerent toward the OSHA inspector.

In November, OSHA published its finalized ergonomics standard. That same month, business groups, including the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), announced they would pursue legal action against OSHA and the regulation. In a news release, Mike Baroody, NAM's senior vice president for policy, communications and public affairs, listed three legal objectives to the rule:

- It reaches beyond the workplace to make businesses liable for previous injuries that are aggravated.

- It overrides existing workers' compensation laws and creates a "most-favored-injury" status for ergonomics by paying higher rates for those injuries.

- It ignores the will of the bipartisan majority in both houses of Congress, which voted to block implementation of the rule.

According to NAM, the suit has been joined with that of the National Coalition on Ergonomics and will be heard in the D.C. Circuit Court this year.

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