On what hardware is rendering the two different ground objects on top of each other expensive?
that would be an early test on a baseline windows 7 box with on-board graphics chip only, dx9 fixed function, using individual dynamic quads (sloooow). since then I've switched to static ground chunks generated on the fly as needed (MUCH faster). for now, the swamp is drawn as chunks, with just a single placeholder texture that is a photo of swamp that has both land and water. looks awful! <g>. its not even seamless.
but static vs dynamic might make enough of a difference - even without generating separate interleaved land and water meshes.
water is drawn with aniso tmapping & mipmaps, and (usually) one directional light. no blending, alpha, etc. so filtering methods are about the only simplification possible, lose the aniso and mipmaps, but it probably wouldn't get me much. i could turn off lighting and manipulate the look of the water by using multiple textures. that would save lighting calculations. or i could break down and write a shader. but the fixed function capabilities i'm using for this scene at the moment are very basic. i think vs 2012 even pre-generates it as one of the basic shaders when you start a new directx project. so i doubt my shader pcode would be faster than fixed function machine code.
reflection is probably not possible, due to the long visual ranges ( ~1000 d3d units). i'll be glad (to start at least) if i can just do land and water as plain old textured quads, without reflection, refraction, or translucency. then i can think about "turning up the volume" on the graphics some more if possible.
perhaps i'll give brute force static meshes a try and see what happens. if they're too slow "double drawing", i can always attempt to interleave. but the land and water may not slice up into separate quads nicely.
i suspect at least some overlap will be required.
i'd definitely like to get this working, as it was one of the better effects from the original version - despite the fact that it ran slower than anything else in the game.