By Kim Robson
Natural pools, also called swimming ponds, contain crystal clear water without harsh chemicals. A natural pool emulates the image of a natural lake. It provides a living body of water for people, animals, and plants; and recreates the unique experience of swimming in a natural lake.
The idea of creating the perfect symbiosis of a natural pond with living water and a traditional swimming pool has long been on the wish lists of many homeowners. Natural pools utilize a wall that separates the swimming area from the regeneration zone where plants and microorganisms decompose impurities and excess nutrients. Water-loving vascular plants, such as cannas, dwarf horsetail, watercress, pennywort, rushes and umbrella palms all work to create a gorgeous garden that attracts wildlife and beneficial insects.
Natural pools evolved from ponds that people swam in. People gradually started making them better for swimming and repairing problems with the water. Largely because Americans fixate on everything’s being clinically sterilized, we have lagged behind the Europeans, who have been creating successful natural pools for decades. Europeans, however, have long embraced a back-to-nature mentality, popularizing natural spa vacations, mineral water baths and walking for good health.
The powerful chemical industry undoubtedly has promoted the popularization of dead, chemical pools. The chlorine used in most pools can have negative side effects such as expensive ongoing reliance on toxic chemicals. The use of chlorine has negative health effects, too. The damaging effect of chlorine on hair is well known, but this is merely a nuisance. However, clinical studies have linked inhalation of chlorine by swimmers to increased asthma rates. For instance, an Irish study published this April found a direct link between the number of years a child had been swimming and the likelihood of the child’s being wheezy during the previous year. A Norwegian study found an increased risk of wheezing among children who swam in pools before six months of age. Another unintended consequence is the reaction of chlorine with urine and sweat in water, forming toxic breakdown products known as chloramines.
Managed properly, natural swimming ponds can have crystal clear water that requires zero chemicals to maintain, as they are self-cleaning mini-ecosystems. “You can drink the water if you want to, and you don’t necessarily have to take a shower,” says Morgan Brown of Idaho-based Whole Water Systems. The systems also have lower maintenance costs than conventional pools, and their installation costs are competitive with traditional pools.
Natural pools can be beautiful oases of greenery, as well as safe, fun places to take a dip. They reflect all the seasons and provide the chance to observe nature. As biopools do not need to be emptied over the winter, you can enjoy seasonal views as well as the possibility of ice skating! No need to worry about mosquitoes, either. Natural predators and moving water make natural swimming pools practically mosquito-free. A single old tire is a much better environment for mosquito larvae.
When designing natural swimming pools, adjusting the water circulation is critical to keeping the water as crystal clear and appealing as a fresh Alpine lake. When pools are first installed, they sometimes take a while to settle to that point and occasional blooms of algae can discolor the water, but they don’t pose any health concern. The longer the system is given to stabilize and the more established the plants in the regeneration zone become, the more likely it is that the water will be transparent.
A properly designed natural pool has virtually no risk of dangerous contamination, provided they are used reasonably (meaning not constantly stuffed to capacity with bathers). Most health departments don’t enforce regulations on residential pools, so you should have few concerns about breaking any local codes. However, that’s not the case with public pools, which usually do have strict requirements.
Natural pools warm up fast and efficiently in the sun, meaning they don’t cost a fortune to heat like traditional pools. Users also tout the “softness” of the water, which is especially gentle on skin and hair. Imagine enjoying a perfect swimming hole – without having to worry about leeches, bacteria, pollution, muck or other problems.
It is also possible to convert a traditional swimming pool to a natural one. You’d need to add a shallow subdivided planting area surrounding the original pool for natural purification. BIOTOP Natural Pools has conversion kits as well as 25 years of experience installing classical, reflecting, and designer quality natural pools in 17 countries worldwide. What better way to bring nature to your own backyard?