With water playing a necessary role in our day-to-day survival and evolution, it is no wonder that we find the sound and sights of flowing water relaxing—a “psychological massage” as pond hobbyist Dave A. Jones puts it. Co-owner of The Pond Professional in Woodstock, Georgia, and an active member of the International Professional Pond Contractors Association (IPPCA), Jones was fundamental in getting an upgraded pond installed at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) at Scottish Rite. After being contacted by a local koi pond club and experiencing the hospital’s 11-year-old under-filtered, under-aerated pond for himself, Jones presented the rehab project for the IPPCA’s Ponditat for Humanity project. The third annual event pooled the pond industry’s resources into a humanitarian project estimated at a total of a quarter of a million dollars.

Although located in an ideal location in a meditation garden off of the children’s recreation area, the pond had lost its vibrancy with the passage of time. The pumps did not have the same efficiency, the fish had outgrown their home. “[The pond’s condition] was no reflection on the hospital. It had just gotten to that state,” Jones says. “The word I got from the staff is that it was at least 11 or 12 years old, and it leaked since the first day it was built. It wasn’t built to grow and get more beautiful as it aged; it was actually a disposable pond. The deepest portion was 12 inches deep, and there were fish in there 30 inches long.”

With approval from IPPCA and sponsorship from Dow Chemical and other corporations, 25 professionals and nearly as many hobbyists and volunteers from throughout the country descended on CHOA at Scottish Rite for the total pond makeover July 10-12. Besides finishing the grade work running up to the event, the pond was completed within three days. Every piece of product was donated, from the three truckloads of ornamental Tennessee Granite to the sophisticated filtration system and pumps.

“We basically took that 12-inch deep pond and replaced it with a 3 ½ foot-deep pond,” Jones says. “The old pond’s filtration and water flow was anemic at best. This new pond is somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 gallons in actual capacity, and we’re moving 25,000 gallons per hour.” The new koi pond will be the center piece of an entire landscape redesign, which will include a sports play court, a lawn for relaxation and picnics, a putting green, a kids’ slide, and multiple benches for seating. The pond will create a spiritual and meditative aspect to the surroundings. “The therapeutic properties of flowing water have been clinically proven as well as cosmetically aware to people for centuries,” Jones says. “You can just sit down, close your eyes, and feel the tension come out of your muscles.”

One of the main goals of the new koi pond is to get children to interact with nature. The importance that nature plays in a child’s development has somewhat escaped the modern Western world as digital interconnectivity becomes the norm—so much so that a bill called the No Child Left Inside Act of 2007 is currently in the Senate trying to reclaim the value of children learning in the natural environment. “A lot of the kids at this hospital may have never seen a live fish in a body of water,” Jones says. “They come down here and see more than a dozen large ornamental fish swimming around and they’re mesmerized. They’re interacting with nature, and, oh my God, heaven forbid, there’s no remote control and joysticks to make these guys swim!”

Jones also expects the pond to bring more wildlife back into the hospital campus, thereby improving the aesthetic and healing value of the landscape. He considers a pond to be the heart of the landscape: “It is pumping life into the entire mental image of that landscape.”

The environmental benefits and the sustainability of the new pond were also considered. IPPCA has done an informal study in 2003 and a semiformal study in 2007 that found an ornamental pond uses less water than irrigated turf of equal area. The ’07 study showed that the irrigated turf used 8.84 times the amount of water that the water feature did. Ponditat for Humanity also installed high-efficiency, high-RPM pumps that, two years ago, would have used four times the electricity to get the job done. “A lot of the equipment is new generation,” Jones says.

The primary filtration on the pond is an up-flow gravel bog garden, a more natural, ancient filtration technique now being rediscovered by the pond industry. The concept basically recreates a wetland system, in which water is bacterially remediated by running through various gravel media, while nutrients from the pond are taken up by plants. (See www.BogFiltration.com for more information.)

At the behest of Jones, the landscape plans were updated to include four benches situated around the pond. “The first thing somebody does when they walk up to a body of water is look around for something to sit on.” Ponditat for Humanity also placed a large sitting rock at the shore’s edge to make a physical connection with the pond. “There’s something about knowing that if you can kick your shoes off and spin around you can put your feet right in the water. There’s something that augments the natural stress relief the body of water is bringing.”