Q: I'm thinking about installing a small waterfall and koi pond in my backyard. It would be 12 to 18 inches deep. But I'm concerned about the drowning hazard it might present to neighborhood children. Do I have to fence it in?

— Jeff, Amherst, NY

A: Roger Cook replies: I wish I had an easy answer for you. Safety regulations regarding fences vary widely from community to community. Some require a fence with a self-locking gate around any body of water deeper than 18 inches, as measured at the deepest point. Others set the minimum at 36 inches deep, and still others go in for calculating a pond's total water volume or the square footage of its surface area. And, as you might expect, some towns exempt ponds completely from fencing requirements. About the only thing I can tell you for certain is this: Follow your local building codes exactly.

By the way, 3 feet is the minimum depth recommended for an outdoor koi pond.
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