Water Features and Your Luxury Home: What You Need to Know to Stay Safe


We at Murfey Company get excited about the many ways to add character to a luxury home, especially the many types of water features. This is true not just of pools and spas; a serene space with a koi pond or a stream or waterfall can turn a home from cookie-cutter to one-of-a-kind, which is one of the most important distinctions of a luxury home.

But there are a few things to keep in mind when you use water features to give your property a distinctive charm (or edge). With La Jolla beaches in the news for high bacteria levels and low health grades, now is a good time to look at water safety around your home as well.

Even with a pump and filter, water features require proper maintenance. If your property is surrounded by a lot of nature or is near a hillside, you have the potential for contamination through excess runoff or contact with wild animals. You don’t need to set traps or bring out the bleach (which can be harmful to animals and your property). You will want to hire a professional on an ongoing basis with experience in monitoring and maintaining pools and ponds. If you are the type who loves doing the outdoor work yourself, make sure you read up on the proper chemicals to use—and that you actually have enough time for regular upkeep.

Untreated pond water may become infested with parasites such as Giardia lamblia and Cryptosporidium, which like to take up warm, cozy residence in human and animal intestinal tracts. What is sneaky about these types of parasites is that you don’t have to drink the water they inhabit to become infected; incidental contact of the hands and then simply touching your mouth afterward without washing can be enough to open a parasite motel in your digestive system.

Bacteria such as E. coli from infected runoff or even pet waste can also find their way into your water feature. While you aren’t as likely to go swimming in your own koi pond, for example, and accidentally swallow that water, cyanobacteria found in the common pond scum algae can trigger rashes with minimal contact and can be harmful to children and pets, who may be more likely to ingest the water.

Warm weather and stagnant water go together like mosquitoes and misery. There are very real health concerns with mosquito-borne illnesses, but even without the disease, biting bugs will ruin your tranquility and defeat the purpose of your luxurious outdoor space.

With all the attention going into protecting your health, don’t forget that if you have a feature such as a koi pond, or any water feature that is filled with or caters to animals, be sure that the pond is habitable and healthy for them. Using chemicals such as bleach or any cleanser not specifically marketed for home pond maintenance can be highly toxic and kill off your fish or other animals. Some home remedies recommend a simple cleaning solution using vinegar—but never use vinegar while the fish are still in the pond! Be aware, too, of chemical runoff from fertilizers, pesticides, and fungicides that you may use around other parts of your yard. Either avoid such toxic chemicals in your yard or arrange the water feature to be impervious to runoff or leeching surrounding groundwater.

Finally, as with any water feature around the home, always be aware of the hazards of drowning. Don’t leave children unsupervised, even around shallow ponds. Adults should also take caution (and be watchful of pets), especially around water features that are surrounded by rocks or stepping stones, which could become slick.

These warnings should not dissuade you from making your luxury backyard extraordinary with some spectacular water features. To keep your luxury home’s backyard glamorous, and not like a scene out of a plague film, keep up regular and proper maintenance and consider hiring an experienced company to monitor the proper pH and bacteria levels around your home.

Luxury means getting exactly the home of your dreams—it’s an investment you can love and that reflects who you are. When planning your dream luxury home, contact us for expertise on planning and building at