Today, we're talking about water. Water, a resource that is vital to the existence of life, is a finite resource that is not evenly distributed around the globe and the advent of climate change has been interfering with its cycle, with consequences that are as yet unpredictable.
Because of this inescapable truth, we are faced with the enormous challenge of rationalising and optimising its use, not just for our own biological needs, but also in its presence in the most varied sectors of our life in society, of which gardens are an integral part.
Just as we can't live without water, gardens can't either. In the landscape area, its presence should aim at zero waste and all water use should be projected carefully.
Water in a garden can therefore make its presence felt in 3 different ways:
Irrigation – the most common and inescapable presence of water in a garden. Without irrigation, plant cover cannot develop. It's a key element in planning a garden (see “the structure of a garden”).
A well-scaled irrigation system is environmentally friendly in that it makes it possible to use the available water resources sustainably, safeguarding against problems related to medium/long-term shortages.
Atmospheric temperature regulation – water is an excellent temperature regulator due to its intrinsic properties and it has been used for this purpose in gardens for centuries.
One of the best examples of the use of water for cooling outdoor areas, such as garden patios, can be seen in the Alhambra palace complex in Granada (Spain).
Elements like ponds, small streams or fountains functioning only through the action of gravity, combined with shade, allow for a reduction in the high atmospheric temperature by about 4°C. This feeling of being cooler is achieved through the evaporation of the water, leading to an increase in local atmospheric humidity.
Sensorial/aesthetic – apart from the thermal regulation of the atmospheric air that water provides for, there are other sensorial aspects that can be awoken to a greater or lesser degree by its presence: what we see and what we hear.
The use of water surfaces can create visual contexts that are aesthetically very interesting due to its reflective component. In another way, fountains and waterfalls, which make water move, provide background noise in a context that is full of life in and of itself.
It is important to understand that when these elements are used in a garden, they should be properly scaled and supported by technology that will make it possible for no water to be wasted, with the use of cyclic recirculation systems (for fountains and waterfalls), or, at the very least, to minimise losses.
In short, it can be said that water and gardens are inseparable. However, due to their dependence on this natural resource, its presence, apart from indispensable, should always be carefully thought out and subject to technical assessment.
Written by Herbert Figueira