Other games in the genre have got by just fine using a mix of finite and “infinite” water blocks – in other words, some are source blocks while others are simply a finite volume of water. Generally, the infinite blocks form rivers and oceans while the finite blocks form ponds and, well, other finite reservoirs.
However, Stonehearth already has the mechanics in place to add and remove water; they’re simply not hooked up to the main game version yet. The old mod to enable the “test” water showed that Stonehearth has no problem with springs/sources and drains; it’s just that the terrain generator currently can’t handle things like waterfalls very well. The water just goes everywhere, and I suppose @Albert ran out of time to implement a nice solution for that.
I’d love it if Radiant simply included ways for players to spawn and remove water, and left it up to us to deal with the rough edges for now. When they’ve got time to work on all the cool stuff they want to do with water, that’s great; but in the meantime I’m sure that players can do really interesting and impressive things with even the most basic tools.
If Stonehearth manages to be the first game (or the first one since Dwarf Fortress, at least) with a credible liquids simulation, that will really set it apart from other games in this genre.
The thing about having water as a “decoration” (which is all it’s really there for at the moment) is that static water is boring. The real pretty stuff comes from running water. Ok, so it’s messy and things can go wrong… players don’t have to include running water in their designs if they don’t want to. However, for players who do want to are currently limited so much that the current implementation of water feels more like teasing than something we can play with, LOL. I’d much rather have messy, buggy water which moved than reasonably stable water which effectively runs out when you try to do anything with it.
Of course, there are other compromises available. If the static water could be given a rippling texture, that might work as a stand-in until we can do things with flowing water. Or, frankly, I’d even be happy with “fake water blocks” which I can build a convincing (if totally fake) waterfall with. I realise that’s going into modding territory and I dearly hope someone makes that mod; but giving us water without giving us the tools to manipulate it is like parking a car in someone’s driveway and then taking the keys away. Currently the water is basically a building obstacle, and you need to have a huge lake of it if you want to use it for any meaningful water features.
Again, I realise that there are higher priorities and that there are greater plans for water down the track. However, my feedback and advice for the dev team, if I may be so bold, is that “half a feature” usually isn’t better or more fun than none of that feature. Once the excitement of having water simply in the world wears off, it quickly just becomes a reminder of all the things you can’t do with it. And that includes getting it out of the way if you happen to have a pond spawn somewhere inconvenient – draining unwanted water away is sometimes even more hassle than trying to get it to a building project (such as a moat or garden pond), since you have to find a permanent place to store it and then it’s like storing radioactive waste. If any leaks during the transport, or you change your mind about what you want to do with the place you’ve stored the water at (e.g. if you’re digging a tunnel and realise it intersects your water holding area)… well, good luck cleaning it up!
I reckon that, alongside terrain tools (i.e. the Geomancer or whatever we get to terraform with), water moving tools should be in that same priority. It’s not just about thematic closeness, the two are intrinsically linked… I mean, you really could classify water as part of the terrain anyway. Imagine if we couldn’t cut down trees, or mine out the randomly scattered chunks of stone; well that’s basically the situation with water at the moment. You can get it out of sight, but not out of mind… if you put it out of mind, chances are you’ll have a flooded basement or mineshaft LOL!