How Do Natural Pools Work and Why Should You Build One?

Is the idea of a natural pool appealing to you buy you can’t stand the thought of swimming with the tadpoles? Today you’ll find out there’s no such compromise and that you can even skip the mud between your toes. Eco-friendly, chemical-free natural pools come with a plethora of benefits, including low maintenance costs and a healthier alternative to traditional pools. Even though conscious Europeans have started embracing them a while ago, natural pools are less popular in the U.S., largely because of misconceptions.

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If you are looking for a pool that doesn’t drown you in chemicals, you may want to start doing your research on natural pools. Are you wondering how these natural swimming pools work without using chlorine and other chemicals? You’ve come to the right place.

How Do Natural Pools Work?

The concept of natural pools differs from the pools you’re probably used to. In the U.S., pools are traditionally made with vinyl, fiberglass, or concrete/granite. While natural pools still employ a form of concrete to maintain the backbone of the structure, they also use a combination of materials working together in a different way.

A natural swimming pool uses nature’s filters to keep itself free of harmful microorganisms. The system is fairly simple. A natural pool must feature two distinct parts. On one hand, there’s the swimming area, while on the other is the regeneration zone. The latter contains all kinds of plants that thrive in an aquatic environment. These are completely fine simply feeding hydroponically on the water, which is what you need to keep your pool clean.

Additionally, a biological filter in the regeneration zone contains aerobic and anaerobic bacteria. These are responsible with taking care of unwanted elements. To stay clean, a small pump will pass the water through the filter and into the zone. Then, as it returns into the swimming area, the water is clarified and entirely clean.

The ecosystem of a natural swimming pool is a lot like a natural pond or lake. The micro-organisms in plant life naturally filter the water. In addition to helping filter the water, these elements also make sure the pool’s ecosystem stays balanced. If the micro-organisms do their job right, you won’t see any algae in the swimming area.

The plants in the regeneration zone (located in the outer, shallow parts of the pool) will compete and win the nutrients algae would need to thrive. This simple process prevents algae growth. The water in the regeneration zone then circulates through aggregate, which filters the water some more.

No Need to Worry

Since the water in a natural pool doesn’t use manmade chemicals, salt, or mechanical means for disinfection and sterilization, it’s understandable that you might worry about its safety. However, purely organic methods will keep your water clean. Still water does run dirty, so it’s a good thing the water in your pool is in constant motion, passing through a biological filter into the plant zone. Plus, homeowners do not have to worry about mosquito infestation. The water in your pool is always moving, and mosquitoes much more favor breeding in standing water.

Even though it may sound like an easy task, homeowners shouldn’t try to build a natural pool on their own. The project employs a well-balanced wetlands ecosystem that includes knowledge of hydraulics, limnology, hydroponics, and pool construction techniques. You need someone to plan and craft the entire system – most likely an experienced landscape architect or a pool builder specialized in this very precise art.

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Why You Should Build a Natural Pool

1. They’re not as expensive as you might think

The price for a natural pool is comparable to that of traditional swimming pool. Construction costs start at about $50 per sq. ft. However, the cost reductions are most apparent in terms of the lack of chemicals. Homeowners save hundreds of dollars in maintenance costs annually. A conventional 10m x 5m pool costs approximately £94,000. Meanwhile, prices for a natural pond start at £80,000, so they are in a similar league.

Once installed, one could also argue that a natural pond is more permanent. When the required plants grow, they become established, making the entire project much more self-sustaining than a traditional pool. Conventional pools will often require maintenance costs, such as fixing a cracked tile, reseal a paving slab or fixing a broken one.

2. Natural Pools require less maintenance

One of the biggest myths regarding natural pools is that you have your work cut out for you. In reality, you’re creating a natural ecosystem that can take care of itself. You don’t need to monitor chlorine or balance the pH. The only tasks you will have to do is skim the fallen leaves off the water’s surface. You won’t have to monitor filters, either, and you don’t have to change out anything. As a bonus, the filter system requires no electricity.

In terms of management, natural swimming ponds look rather easy. You only have to install the necessary organisms into your swimming pond, as well as the plants that help keep your pool water crystal clear. The zooplankton constantly manage the algae numbers in the pond through a natural ‘filter’ installed at the time of construction. This is a huge difference compare to the amount of chemicals required for sterilizing a traditional pool clear.

3. You won’t swim in muddy water

It’s indeed good for the plant pond to use sterilized soil. However, for the swimming pool, concrete, bentonite clay or a synthetic or rubber liner work great. At about 35 cents per sq. ft. (sans installation), a 3-inch-thick layer of waterproof bentonite is the cheapest option. Also, consider adding 3-4 inches of pre-washed gravel to the floor of your plant pond. It builds a favorable habitat for beneficial bacteria that get rid of harmful organic materials.

4. You can design them after your own heart

Some worry natural pools are too untraditional. In reality, you can build a natural swimming pool that looks exactly as a regular pool – including the concrete bottom and sides, and the coveted sky-blue pool color. The plant pond can even turn into a substitute out-of-sight gravel filter, if that’s more your cup of tea. Of course, there’s nothing bad with making your natural pool look like that old swimming hole you used to love.

Header Image: eluxemagazine.com

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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