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Summer Water Hazards: Ponds and Fountains

Summer temperatures have arrived … and with them, special hazards for homeowners with ponds, fountains, and other water features.

Landscaping features like ponds and fountains present a year-round hazard, but the dangers increase in summer, when the weather makes water more attractive to children and animals.

A child can drown in two inches of water — far less than most people realize. If the water is deep enough to cover a child’s nose and mouth, it presents a drowning hazard. Decorative ponds, fountains, and water features are genuine hazard, whether or not the water is deep or flowing. Even a deep enough birdbath creates a danger.

Homeowners should take care when placing water features to maximize safety and minimize the risk of accidental injuries or drownings. Consider these helpful tips:

1. Place water features in secure locations where children and animals cannot access them freely. Swimming pools need safety gates, but koi ponds and other water features may not legally need the same protection. Even so, gates and safety barriers should be employed to prevent drownings and injuries from landscape features involving water. Ponds and other water features are better suited to backyard areas not open or accessible to the public.

2. Clean water features often. Dirty or standing water harbors germs, and provides a breeding ground for insects (such as mosquitoes) which may also spread disease. Make sure ponds and water features have appropriate filtration, and use safe, non-toxic chemical treatments to minimize germs in fountains and other water features not inhabited by koi or other aquatic specimens.

3. Teach children proper water safety, and prevent horseplay around fountains, ponds, and other dangerous areas. If your yard features a pond or other water-based landscape feature, teach children and visitors not to run or engage in horseplay near and around the water. Establish rules similar to the ones you might use with a swimming pool.

4. Never leave children alone near a water-based landscape feature. Always supervise young children around any water-based landscape feature. You may believe your yard is safe because it has a fountain “instead of a pool” but young children are equally at risk in shallow water–if not more so. Toddlers and young children may not have the same respect for water features that seem “safe” as they do for larger swimming pools. Never assume a child will exercise proper judgment around the water.   

5. Secure chemicals and water treatment products in locked cabinets when not in use. Many water treatment chemicals and other substances used to create, maintain, and treat water features are poisonous if ingested (even in small amounts). Keep all landscaping chemicals (including fertilizers and garden care products as well as water treatment supplies) in a locked, secure location well away from children and animals.

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Compliance with these tips will not make water features 100% safe. Inherent hazards associated with water, as well as other dangers  – for example, the risk of slip and fall from leaks and wet surfaces – will continue to exist. Homeowners should inspect water features and other landscaping carefully and frequently, to address dangerous conditions promptly, and to post appropriate warning signs near dangerous conditions and repairs in progress.

Never rely exclusively on this or any other article to keep your home safe and secure. Remember: vigilant inspection, awareness, and action to fix dangerous conditions are both critical and legally required to help avoid homeowner liability for accidents and injuries.

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