How to Make a Waterfall, River or Lake (Without Mods)


Always dreamed of building a waterfall in Cities: Skylines but didn’t know how? Well, me too! But then I found out about the Fresh Water Outlet. It’s a service building that arrived in the Natural Disasters expansion.

Making a waterfall with Natural Disasters water outlet

The Outlet pumps water when there’s excess water production. It’ll shut off automatically if your city’s water demand grows so much that there’s none to spare.

I hadn’t bought Natural Disasters because as undeniably epic as the disasters are, they aren’t really my thing. But… I wanted helicopters. You can toggle off random disasters and just enjoy the new buildings. Admittedly some mods make building waterfalls and rivers a bit easier, but it’s more than possible in the vanilla game, too.

Find a spot of the outlet

Making a bore hole

Digging the bore hole.

I’m using the Eden Valley map from the Green Cities expansion. It’s got some great accessible hill areas crying out for nature reserves, but you can also build a hill yourself if you’re on a flat map. The first thing to do is work out where your water will spring from. Once that’s done, use the Shift terrain landscaping tool to bore a hole in the ground. When it’s deep enough, use the Slope terrain to even it out a bit. That’ll help with placement, but also give you a chance to make a little hilltop lake.

Even out the bore hole

Even the hole out if you like. You’ll be able to turn it into a hilltop lake. If not, just leave as a wellspring.

Now, you’ll probably need to fiddle about a bit with the placement. Try rotating the building to find the perfect spot. We’re aiming to get it sat as low as possible so that the water sits over the top of it.

Filling the bore hole

Connect the Outlet up to water and power.

Make a notch and small lake

Round out the bowl

Create the notch where your little lake will spill out from.

Then, make a notch where you want the water to leave. Later, you can lift this area up a bit if the Outlet isn’t fully submerged. Connect it with water pipes and bring over some electricity. Once the water’s flowing, find out where it’s going and use the terrain tools to shape it however you want.

Checking the flow for the waterfall

Keep using terrain tools liberally to shape your new waterway.

Submerging the water outlet

Change the shape of the pond until you’ve got the Outlet as submerged as you want.

You can use the same trick to make a lake or pond, but unless you constantly turn your outlet on and off, it’ll overflow. So in the vanilla game, it’s better to make sure you run the water out to a river or sea. The one exception is if you use a Water Pumping Station at the bottom. Its capacity is much higher than the outlet, so it’ll just suck all that water back up.

Cover up the machinery and admire your waterfall

Once you’re ready, there’s some hiding of electricity pylons to be done. You can mask them with trees, or maybe use your nature reserve’s buildings to bring power down to the water. That would give it a great finished look and act as a starting point for your trails.

And there you go! Thanks for reading.

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