Water is precious in dry climates - so the gurgle and sparkle of water in a garden lends the refreshing feel of an oasis.
Going small is a great way to lessen the water requirements of a fountain. Skinny and deep is usually better than shallow and wide. The urn fountain below has a recirculating pump concealed in a basin below the fountain. This also conserves water.
Urn fountains also double as birdbaths because songbirds can perch on the edge of the vessels. You can make a fountain with just about any nonporous ceramic pot, but the urn shape is one of the best looking, in my opinion.
Just listening to water pour into a basin can be comforting on scorching summer days. Just remember that you don't want Niagara Falls on your patio! Fountains with water that falls from high above can make enough noise to make it difficult to have a conversation. Also, fountains with a lot of falling water tend to waste more water on account of water splashing out of the fountain.
Plants with cool-colored leaves or flowers, or hardscape elements, like the tumbled glass pieces shown, can suggest water and be great water feature substitutes.
If your fountain leaves the surrounding ground damp from overspray, use plants that will appreciate the extra water. A couple of my favorites are golden columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha) (TOP) and yerba mansa (Anemopsis californica).
How do you make your garden seem cool and inviting during the summer months?