Do you find yourself dreaming of a backyard swimming pool, but when it comes to the constant maintenance and dealing with harsh chemicals, not so much? More and more homeowners are discovering that there is a natural alternative to the traditional chlorinated pool, and it’s also sustainable. Environmentally friendly, chemical-free natural swimming pools have low ongoing maintenance costs and are healthy alternatives to conventional pools. It turns out that natural pools have been experiencing quite a revival in the UK and in parts of Europe, although the trend is just getting up steam here in the U.S.
So how are natural pools different? Natural pools create a natural ecosystem that basically takes care of itself. But that doesn’t mean you are sacrificing clean, healthy water for a more aesthetic, natural look. Most natural swimming pools have two connected areas – one for swimming and a shallow area to hold plants. The root structures of aquatic plants, such as cattails, water lilies and duckweed, remove bacteria and other contaminants. Some natural pools also incorporate a UV sterilizer to assure any germs are killed.
For those of you who are imagining their toes squishing on a muddy bottom, that’s not the case. Sterilized soil can be used for the plant pond, but for the swimming area the bottom can be natural stone and gravel, concrete, rubber, reinforced polyethylene or bentonite clay.
Is the water clean? Natural pools use biological filters to keep water clear, clean and chemical-free. The pool’s water is circulated by a pump through either a gravel filter or a plant filter area, depending on your preference. Maintenance is simple when compared to a chlorinated pool. Once a month, you remove any sediment with a pool vacuum cleaner and scoop away any fallen leaves or debris with a skimmer.
Does the water get stagnant? Most natural pools are designed to continually move water over and around the roots of the aquatic plants so they can do a good job of natural cleaning and filtration. A simple water pump can do the trick at a much lower cost than a standard pool filtration unit. Installing a bubbler or small waterfall can add ambiance as well as provide valuable aeration.
What if you want a more conventional look to your pool, as opposed to “going native?” You can build a natural swimming pool that looks exactly like a traditional swimming pool with concrete sides and bottom that is finished in the traditional sky-blue color. You can even substitute an out-of-sight gravel filter for the plant pond. Actually, the possibilities for natural pool designs are practically limitless, from traditional looks to serene settings that closely resemble wild ponds. You can choose the look that best suits your tastes and the character of your home and garden.
What about the cost? Natural pools cost about the same as traditional swimming pools. However because there are no chemicals to add, yearly maintenance costs are hundreds of dollars less. The average construction cost is around $50 per square foot.
Sources: National Association of Realtors; Natural Swimming Pond/Pool Association
Photos: Total Habitat, designers of natural swimming pools, Bonner Springs, KS.