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Your Dream Desert Landscape: Water Feature Ideas for Phoenix Pools & Backyards

October 5, 2021

In no landscape other than our Sonoran Desert can water so powerfully amplify natural beauty.

Whether they’re reflecting intense sunbeams, or evaporating, giving us the cool we need to be present for the desert’s natural splendor. The mere sight and sound of water increases blood flow to the brain and heart, creating a swift relaxing effect.

If you’re considering bringing peace, tranquility, and fun to your personal desert landscape, we hope the following guide on the hottest water features will help you decide.

Considerations for Choosing the Best Water Feature Types for Your Phoenix-area Backyard

Before we dive into our list, we’re going to give you a few tips to help you narrow your options.

To make your decision, you’ll need to consider a few variables—how you plan to use it, who it’s for, what you want it to be made of, and how much yard space you have to spare (Among others).


When you daydream about your new backyard, what kind of experience are you having?

  • Relaxing in a natural-feeling landscape beset with organically-placed water features?
  • Bringing out more ambiance from your existing landscape design?
  • Transforming your yard with a striking set piece?
  • Socializing in the sun with a water-cooled gathering place for friends and family?

Ultimately, the right project for you depends on what you hope to get from your landscape.


The size of your yard or pool ultimately determines the range of water features types and landscaping elements available to you.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that those with limited square footage should have their hopes dashed—rather, you’ll have to consider space-conscious options—for instance, corner-mounted fountains, wall-mounted waterfalls, or more compact waterslides.


Another great way to narrow down your selection is to think about your preferred building materials. Compare their aesthetic quality, durability, maintenance requirements, and cost to get a feel for what works for you.

The following are the most commonly used materials in pools and water feature placements.

  • Bronze and Copper: Gorgeous and shiny; particularly beautiful when set behind lush landscaping. They also lead in cost and require somewhat frequent maintenance.
  • Granite: Granite offers a stunning contrast to water. Because it lacks a porous surface, streams glide along it effortlessly (Making it easy to clean). It is also known to stay pristine for decades and fits in nearly any setting.
  • Cast Stone: Looks similar enough to natural stone and is much more affordable. It’s lighter, but it also has a much shorter life span compared to granite.
  • Fiberglass: The most affordable option, fiberglass can effectively mimic many materials (Granite and stone, for instance). UV damage makes it more brittle over time, though its lack of density makes it more vulnerable to strong winds.
  • Ceramic and Porcelain: Their stunning pure white shine is difficult to beat. With competitive pricing and high stain resistance, stand up to both Phoenix’s heat and sun,  making it a viable option for Arizona homeowners. Porcelain is more expensive, comparable with granite, but it’s more dense, durable, and scratch resistant.

Water Feature Types for Pools in Phoenix, AZ

Swimming is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The weightlessness, effortless support, the instant joy they bring to children—they’re not only capable of turning around a bad day—they can completely transform landscapes.

Unlike the cookie-cutter plain-Jane pools you’re used to, yours can take on almost any shape. Water features enhance your pool’s ambiance, add fun new activities,  and cool your pool water.


(A.K.A. Baja Shelves, Tanning Ledges) 

Cost: $5,000 – $15,000.

You’ll enjoy: Sunshelves are perfect for small children, pets, and adults looking for poolside splashing, sunbathing, and relaxation. Shallow sun shelves—between six inches to one foot deep—create a platform for young swimmers and shade-covered lounge chairs.

Beyond adding another activity to poolside relaxation, sun shelves add a luxurious and upscale look.

Disadvantages: On the other hand, sunshelves reduce your pool’s swimmable space, they can attract bathing birds (Which bring debris and dirt), and can’t be removed once built.


Costs: >$5,000

You’ll enjoy: Few things proclaim “I’m on vacation” louder than sipping drinks at a poolside bar. The weightlessness of swimming combines with a light cerebral buzz to put you in an altered state of relaxation.

Swim-up bars are perfect for big gatherings and lazy weekend days alike. The setup can be as extensive or as minimal as you desire–from a few stools at your pool’s foot to a fully-featured sunken bar with a polished bar top and mini kitchen.

Disadvantages: Like sunshelves, swim-up bars reduce swimming space. They’ll also add a bit more cleaning to your pool routine, and you’ll have to tolerate occasional spillage as well.


Cost: $5,000 to $10,000 (Two-person space). >$50,000 (Fully equipped gathering spot).

You’ll enjoy: Grottos are as simple as a cave with a waterfall door. Everything else is up to you.

Pool owners love grottos, and for good reason. They multiply your pool’s cool factor, aesthetic quality and add functional, shaded space for hangouts of all kinds.

Your budget will ultimately determine the size and sophistication of your grotto. You can go for a loveseat-sized grotto all the way up to a Playboy Mansion-style party space. 

You can also personalize the inside to your liking with custom lighting, statues, water spouts—almost anything you can imagine.

Grotto Varieties:

  • 2 Seat set
  • Hidden Grotto room
  • Group seating
  • Slide-equipped Grotto
  • Hot tub Grotto
  • Grotto With Swim-Up Bar

Disadvantages: Cleaning and maintenance; pool vacuums often can’t reach inside. You’ll need to watch out for salt erosion, too.


Cost: $800 to $1,200 (For smaller features like bubblers and water jets)—$5,000 to $15,00 (Fully-featured rock waterfalls)

You’ll enjoy: The most incredible freedom pools bring: swimming on your terms. On your time, without crowds, overpriced concessions, or entry fees.

Your pool doesn’t even have to look (or work) like all the rest. Maybe yours is for peace and seclusion, an exercise area, a lasting memory maker for your grandkids, or an active gathering space.

All it takes are tasteful additions. Add multi-level waterfalls, water jets, wall-mounted waterfalls, fountains, or a gentle stream that snakes through your landscape (And into your pool)

Also, it’s a lesser-known fact that these water features cool your pool’s temperature through evaporation. In the scorching North Phoenix sun, it makes a difference.


Cost: >$4,000

You’ll enjoy: Slides transform pools into child-pleasing fun factories and idyllic spots for adult gatherings.

Size and slide type are the most important considerations here. Begin by considering the depth of your pool and the slide’s intended audience. 

If you are hosting children well under 48 inches tall, you’ll need a pool that’s at least two feet deep to accommodate a shorter slide. Older children and adults will need a pool that’s at least three feet deep, potentially more. 

Slides can be extensively customized to blend with your yard’s style. Decorate them with gorgeous natural landscaping and rock formations, snake them through your landscape, then add powerful water jets and turns for more fun.

Disadvantages: Safety is a consideration. You’ll need to check the nuts, bolts, and screws regularly to ensure they’re secured (And lay non-slip mats surrounding the pool). You may have to institute a few safety rules for guests, too, in addition to liability insurance.

Garden Water Feature Types Unrelated to Pools

There are many gorgeous, soothing, and creative water feature placements worth consideration for Phoenix homeowners who seek nature without being submerged in it.

In this section, we’ll explore four of our most popular and enduring water features.


Costs: $850 – $4,500

You’ll enjoy: Splash pads deliver endless days of wet and wild fun for kids—without the full expense of a pool. They’re also generally more child-proof too, reducing the risk of drawing. 

While undoubtedly kid-friendly, interactive fountains are available in just as many styles and materials as other water feature types like waterfalls and traditional fountains. 

Because of this, they double as stunning centerpieces or yard accents, and of course, lend your yard the soothing sounds of raindrops. And by laying permeable paving or installing a standard drain system, you recycle and save water.

Downsides: Interactive fountains still require backyard space (Even though they are much smaller than pools). Their appeal may be limited to younger children, though, and wet surfaces pose a slipping risk.


Cost: >$4,000

You’ll enjoy: Few sounds soothe so powerfully as gently-falling water.

Rain curtains are door-frame-shaped water feature placements that drop pure, crystalline water droplets in a rectangular shape, where they fall into a catch basin and get recycled.

These attractive features can vary wildly in size, design, and placement. Set yours over a pool, over a gravel walking path, or place a planting box beneath it. They’re a true show-stopping centerpiece in any configuration. And rain curtains really pop with good lighting.

Downsides: Modest pump and waterway maintenance is required. You’ll also need a sizable yard to make room.


Cost: <$6,000

You’ll enjoy: Waterfalls evoke a primal, awe-inspiring beauty—it’s no wonder why tourists travel many miles for the pleasure.

You can bring that same magic a few yards from your backdoor. Waterfall features come in numerous designs and sizes, generally offered either attached to a pond or pondless, where water collects in an often hidden reservoir.

Ponds are especially great for nature lovers, as they can support fish and aquatic plants like Koi and Waterlilies. On the other hand, pondless waterfalls are cheaper, quicker to clean, and easier to treat for algae. There’s no risk of accidentally hosting mosquito larvae, either.

Can’t decide? You can always add a pond later.

You can also customize how the water flows out from the waterfall. Rainforest-style waterfalls propel water in a stream of droplets, while sheetfall waterfalls send a smooth, thin “sheet” of falling water. Others opt for rock waterfalls, where slightly narrower streams flow out of multiple locations within a rock formation.


Cost: $2,000 – $6,000

You’ll enjoy: Ramadas and pergolas are among the most popular landscape features in the Phoenix area, owing to their ability to offer the best of both worlds: an “inside”-feeling space filled with fresh air.

Still, our summer sun is far too intense to be stopped by shade alone. Misters are an energy- and water-efficient way to cool down—evaporating water into mist, cooling the surrounding area. 

For aesthetic purposes, you can also hide misters among landscaping elements.

Disadvantages: In some cases, you may need additional plumbing work done before installation. And misters introduce a risk of slips and falls.


Author: Holly Banghart

Holly, our senior designer and sales manager since 2010, brings expertise in design, industry certifications, and Master Gardener qualification. She crafts functional outdoor spaces tailored to clients' needs with manageable maintenance. Holly excels in conquering design challenges, turning yards into captivating landscapes. If you seek to enhance your outdoor space, Holly stands ready to transform your vision into reality.

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