5 Questions That Can Help You Determine Legionella Bacteria Risk In Your Decorative Water Feature

Decorative water features (sometimes called “ornamental water features”) are often used in hotels, restaurants, universities, and healthcare facilities to create a relaxing atmosphere. From a water safety perspective, it is important to understand the health risk associated with decorative features. These 5 questions can help you determine the risk of multiplication and spread of Legionella bacteria from your decorative water feature.

1.  Does your decorative features create a spray and/or mist?
To cause disease, Legionella bacteria contained in small water droplets must be inhaled into the lungs. For this reason, a decorative water feature that creates a spray or mist, even if only on a windy day, carries a higher risk. A water feature which is fully enclosed in glass or does not create any spray at all poses a much lower risk of spreading Legionnaires’ disease than a feature that sprays or mists water.
2.  Are there submerged lights in your decorative feature?
Submerged lighting is often found in decorative water features to increase aesthetic appeal. However, equipment such as lights and pumps can elevate the water temperature to above 68°F, leading to conditions which are conducive to rapid Legionella bacteria multiplication. Certain types of lights which produce less heat when operated should be used whenever possible.
3.  Do you drain, clean, and sanitize the decorative feature at least once a year?
In addition to using disinfection chemicals (such as chlorine, if approved by the manufacturer) on an ongoing basis, the decorative water feature should be drained and cleaned periodically. It is important to note that the amount of exposed surface area will impact the potential for biofilm growth. A water feature with more surface area, such as one with many rocks, has a greater potential for biofilm growth. Records of this preventative maintenance must be kept available.
4.  Does the water used in your decorative feature sit stagnant?
Flowing water tends to minimize biofilm growth, while stagnant water will lead to biofilm conditions. Legionella bacteria will be more likely to be found in a decorative water feature which is stagnant than in one that is constantly recirculating. If the water features has a recirculating pump, but it is turned off for multiple days in a row, consider draining and cleaning the feature.
5.  Does the water used in your decorative feature appear cloudy at times?
Cloudy water may be an indication of high concentrations of bacteria, producing ideal conditions for biofilm growth. Filtration is one way to decrease contaminants which cause cloudy water conditions. Filters must be disinfected or changed regularly, as per manufacturer’s recommendations.


Although not all decorative water features may carry the same risk level for proliferation and spread of waterborne pathogens, Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) advises to avoid placing decorative features in patient-care areas. Veterans Health Administration (VHA) prohibits the use of decorative features in its facilities.


Sampling on a routine basis for Legionella bacteria is an essential tool for validating your decorative water feature preventative maintenance program. Barclay has a dedicated team ready to clean and sanitize your decorative water feature and help validate effectiveness with Legionella bacteria sampling.
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