There is something comforting about the sound of a brook, the lap of waves, the splash of a fountain. A garden and a backyard can be beautiful without it, but add a water feature and suddenly, water is the focal point, the draw and the centerpiece of a new environment, one with life, one with peace, a cool and comforting place.

According to a study by the World Health Organization, urbanization takes human beings out of their natural elements, causes stress and negatively affects their well-being. Time spent in greenscapes and especially around waterscapes, however, is healing both physically and mentally, the study said.

Although a water fountain surrounded by greenery may not be a trip to the beach or a hike along a river, water features with their natural elements seem to contribute to a sense of wholeness.

Fortunately, both large elaborate water features and simple, inexpensive ones can add that special something to a garden.

When you are imagining a water feature, let your mind go with the flow and consider the possibilities. A water feature can be small like a birdbath and attract wildlife or it can be expansive like a pond and become its own miniature ecosystem. The difference is size, of course, but also cost and maintenance.

Sometimes it’s wise to start small with a simple fountain to test the waters.

“A water feature can be as simple as a tabletop fountain,” said Mike Curran of Timberwinds Nursery. “Or the fountain can be free standing with a small pump. Usually, it’s portable.”

That portability is important because smaller, less expensive fountains do not usually do well in cold weather, and if not put away, the fountain could be cracked and ruined by spring.

“The important thing to understand is that if it is out in the open and going to be out all winter, it needs to be an all-weather fountain,” Mike said. “If it’s not all-weather, it needs to be put away for the winter, or covered.”

Large all-weather fountains are not usually moved and are permanent fixtures in your backyard or garden.

A fountain’s working parts consist of a water reservoir, a water pump and a design feature. The location where you choose to install it must have access to an electrical outlet, and any cords that travel to the outlet should be out of the way of lawn mowers and preferably concealed.

Fountains can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes and can be made from a variety of materials including cement, copper, brass, steel and ceramic as well as containers of various kinds. The design feature can set the tone and style of your garden space or should complement other existing features. Traditional fountains with tiers provide a classic look. A simple and intriguing style of fountains are bubbling containers which bubble up water to spill into a receptacle below or into another container or containers.

Water features with a Zen influence often use bamboo to carry water that slowly drips into the pool. Some water fountains feature simple waterfalls or waterfalls that spill into a small pond below.

“Ponds are a whole industry in themselves,” Mike said. Homeowners considering a small pond water feature should consult with companies that specialize in ponds. The rewards, however, can be great. Ponds can be designed to include fish and water plants and produce a pool of peace in the garden.

The location of fountains and other water features are an important consideration. In addition to proximity to electricity and water, the fountain needs to be placed where it can be seen, heard and enjoyed. It needs a hardscape like a patio, a walkway, a deck, or simply a place where there is seating and shade. A privacy fence, or a privacy hedge can make a fountain area a comfortable space for friends to gather or quiet place of refuge for your family, and refuge in a peaceful place surrounded by nature is something people need more than ever.