Water seeks its lowest level. Or as we say, it runs downhill. As apparent as this is, this law of physics governs how we use water in the landscape. With the addition of a pump we find that a natural body of water can be moved uphill and allowed to fall as a waterfall. The same requirement means that we can arrange basins in descending order and be sure that the water that we pump to a high point gets a thorough design workout before it finds its lowest level in the water garden’s reservoir.
Our choice of how the water makes its way from a high point to a low point can vary from channeled formality to seamlessly natural stream construction. Entirely human made water gardens are labor intensive and often costly. By matching the quantity of water that we imagine we are capable of summoning for our garden design to the quality of the design, we are emulating Nature. Natural water features rarely presume to command more water than is seasonally available. The rivers that run through valleys are shadows of the glaciers that scoured them to their present shape. Although canyons appear to have been sculpted by a great torrent, most of the shaping we see occurred over millions of years. So with our gardens. If we have an old dug well as a reservoir, the watercourse we design must match the well’s ability to supply it. If we only have a pitcher full of water to spare each day, then a hollow in a stone becomes the natural container.