Houston is built on flat land where ponds can become algae-covered breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Or, with the right care and some dye, they can be crystal-blue lakes with flowers, fish and eye-grabbing fountains.
For developers, the difference can mean big money.
Waterfront lots are more expensive — so much more expensive that developers are willing to pay guys like Mac McCune and his Lake Management Services thousands of dollars a year for picturesque ponds.
“Everybody wants their lakes in these subdivisions to look like the Caribbean,” he said. “The problem is, Mother Nature doesn’t want them to look like the Caribbean.”
With new subdivisions popping up all over the area, developers need to set their projects apart from the competition. Water features have replaced golf courses as the amenity of choice, said Tom Wilcox, general manager of Riverstone Development Co., whose 3,700-acre, 6,000-home project in Fort Bend County will feature 250 acres of lakes that McCune’s company will maintain.
“Water always sells,” Wilcox said. “There’s nothing else that can give you that resort feel. Water has that calming effect that golf may not have — especially if you’re a golfer.”
Making an artificial lake in southeast Texas look like the Bahamas is not cheap. Fountains and pumps need to be maintained. Plants need pruning. Water quality has to be checked regularly to keep fish alive.
The right mix of fish keeps one species from killing off another. Herbicides keep algae in check, and dyes give water what McCune calls that “Tidy Bowl look.”
For a price, Mother Nature can be tamed. A 5-acre lake with a fountain and groundwater well costs about $10,000 a year to maintain, he said. Lake Management Services offers various packages depending on the kind of lake, its features and how often the company’s crews work on it. The minimum is $350 a month.
Photo by Gary Fountain.