By Diane Small
When the temperatures rise, many of us wish we had a pool to dive into. But as refreshing as the traditional backyard swimming pool may be, they are also usually quite polluting, as they normally use harsh cleaning chemicals which are difficult to dispose of safely, and which can also harm skin.
Not only that, but the same chemicals can harm pets or wildlife if they drink the pool water, and as most swimmers know, they can also cause dry and discoloured hair, red eyes and skin rashes. Even worse, trihalomethane gas, which is often used in pools, is a known carcinogen, and chlorine, omnipresent in public pools, has been associated with bladder cancer, asthma, and birth defects.
But worry not: natural pools are the perfect alternative. These fantastic pools are stunning all year round: during the winter they can freeze without problems, and in the warmer seasons, they are a verdant and beautiful part of the garden landscape. They can even be constructed to look like small lakes and ponds rather than a huge, tiled hole dug out of the earth.
What Is A Natural Pool?
A natural pool is a small body of water that uses plants for filtration. Unlike a traditionally rectangular, chlorine-filled swimming pool, a natural pool is often designed to imitate pools, ponds, or other bodies of water in the wild—they can have irregular shapes, along with rocks, waterfalls, and boulders.
Unlike most garden swimming pools, natural swimming pools or ponds (NSPs) are filtered organically rather than by chemicals. Another pool called a regeneration zone is built nearby, which is where the water enters either a gravel filter or a constructed wetlands made of plants that clean the water. This resembles the process by which aquatic plants clean ponds in nature and results in a pool no less clean than one with chemically filtered water.
The natural pool and its regeneration zone actually build a small ecosystem that changes over time, and animals or insects are often attracted to the zone (but not the pool, thankfully—it doesn’t contain the environment they’re looking for).
Keeping Your Natural Pool Clean
Wondering how to keep these clean? Luckily, there are a variety of different filtration options for these pools. Austrian company Biotop, for example, offers households two separate water circulation systems for optimum water quality and clarity.
The primary system uses a low energy submersed pump that runs 24 hours a day all year round and draws water down through fine grade chemically inert filter grit and a carefully selected mix of plant species that trap sediment, break down organic materials and remove nutrients from the water. This water is then filtered through a specially developed phosphate binding media and returned to the pool.
The second filtration system runs during the day and is connected to a biotop patented, self cleaning, self adjusting skimmer that takes all the surface water over a 8 hour period and clears any surface debris such as leaves to reduce the amount of wind-blown debris reaching the pool, and also cuts down on cleaning.
These two systems working together provide some of the most reliable and efficient filtration available for natural swimming pools.
Living Pool or Natural Pool?
If you want to go even more natural than that, there is also a variety of natural pools that are referred to as Living Pools, which are slightly different. These are based on the same concept of Natural Swimming Pools, but function without the plants. Instead, they work by passing the water through a Phostec Ultra filter and biological filter medium to clean and clarify the water resulting in clean clear water all year round.
For both types of pools, there’s another way to purify water safely: oxygenator technology.
This is a technology which generates four powerful natural disinfecting oxidisers from the water: hydroxyl (OH), atomic oxygen (O1), hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and molecular oxygen (O2). Copper ionisation is then combined with the ‘oxygenator’ technology to guard against algae buildup. A high oxygen content in water means viruses, bacteria, yeast, fungi and protozoa are neutralised to the point where the pool water is actually fit to drink.
Ok, so they’re gorgeous and easy to clean. But what are the downsides of living and natural pools?
- Building a natural pool can get quite expensive—remember, a natural pool requires an entirely discrete pool right by it for filtration. Because they’re more unusual than traditional pools, it may also be difficult to find a good contractor to build one. For an NSP that looks good and will last, hire a pool and pond builder who specializes in this kind of environment and who can show you pools they have designed and built.
- Over the long run, they are cheaper than a traditional pool due to their lower maintenance costs, but if you think selling the property within a few years is a possibility, then you risk spending more on your natural pool than you would have on a traditional one.
- The regeneration zone means these require more land to build; the zone should generally be as big as the pool itself.
- The organic water can look ‘dirty’, depending on the presence of algae, and it’s impossible to completely remove sediment and some life from the pool. Though the water is perfectly safe to swim in, your natural pool may not look as nice as a traditional blue water pool.
Despite the downsides, there can be little doubt that natural and living pools are worth the investment – they’re a rare feature that will bring years of pleasure to their owners, and they’re much gentler on the environment, too.
Images: Naturalswimmingpools.com and Natural-swimmingpools.co.uk