Natural swimming pools have been extremely popular in Europe since the 80’s and are starting to catch on here in the United States. While natural swimming pools are domestically still far and few between, if you have seen one or been lucky enough to swim in one, you know that they are just as clean and fun as their traditional tiled and chemically-treated counterparts. However, unlike their chlorinated colleagues, natural swimming pools are designed to imitate natural bodies of water like ponds or swimming holes and contain no chemicals…zip, zero, zilch!
Natural pools are constructed out of concrete, just like a traditional swimming pool, but that’s just about where their similarities end…other than being filled with water! Natural swimming pools require an additional water garden area close-by called a regeneration zone. Some say that this is where the magic happens, but really it is the place where the water enters passing through strategically selected and installed plants and is then cleaned by either a gravel or plant filter. This zone mostly resembles the process that plants filter ponds in nature, which results in water that is just as clean as a treated swimming pool.
You may be thinking, “Ew…bugs, animals and dirt!” Well, yes, you would be right, but the bugs, animals and dirt you fear are critical to the success of the ecosystem and are more attracted to the regeneration zone because it reflects their natural habitat! You will find that the dragonflies and frogs that move into their new water garden apartment will keep the mosquitoes and other biting bugs under control!
In return for the free room and board, the regeneration zone will actually create its own ecosystem over time, which is to the benefit of the natural pool and exactly what you want. The filtered and clean water will make its way back into the swimming portion of the pool to start the natural cycle again. The regeneration zone’s size and depth is directly related to the size of the swimming pool and is typically located adjacent to the pool, so the water can naturally filter back and forth. In a tight backyard squeeze, it is possible for the water circulation equipment to run underground to the regeneration zone, but it is not ideal. If backyard space is a concern, you may have to downsize the desired natural swimming pool area to accommodate each piece, or opt for a traditional swimming pool instead.
Natural swimming pool installation is a very sensitive and detail oriented process. Not only does the installer need to know how to construct the shell and install the equipment, but must be well-versed in the plants used in the regeneration zone to create the main source of filtration. There are three types of aquatics plants used in water garden: floating, emergent and submerged. There are many common natives of each type needed in this space, beginning the sophisticated yet creative process. The floating flora include species of lotus and water lily, the emergent plants include sedges and grasses, and the submerged plants are rooted to the bottom of the regeneration zone to help oxygenate the water. Once established, the water garden is a beautiful sight to behold…exactly as nature intended it.
I know, I know…you’re probably thinking, “Enough about the green plants, let’s talk about the green paper!” Just like any swimming pool, the installation of your natural swimming pool depends on factors like size and added features. Typically, natural swimming pools cost about the same per sq. ft as a traditional pool, but since these natural bodies are larger in size to account for the regeneration zone, they tend to be more of an investment. To help balance out the scale, where a homeowner will spend ample energy and hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars on traditional maintenance and chemical costs, the natural swimming pools forego those expenses.
Yes, it is true that a natural swimming pool requires less energy than maintaining a chemically treated pool, but it isn’t without its own set of chores. The skimmer and pump baskets will periodically need to be cleaned out and the swimming portion will need to be vacuumed from time to time. The unwanted plants in the water garden will need to be removed, the rest of the plants will need to be trimmed and maintained and then cut back at the end of the season. Just as any other outdoor water feature in Northeast PA, the pool will need to be winterized when the seasons turn. The plumbing lines will need to be winterized and the pump and filter need to be brained. If you prefer, you may cover the swimming pool with a traditional cover, but the regeneration zone will only need a mesh cover to prevent rogue leaves and debris.
So, why do people opt for a natural swimming pool? Each family has their own set of reasons, but here are a few of the common motives:
Honestly, I could go on and on about natural swimming pools, but chances are you would rather be swimming right now than reading this any longer. Let’s compromise, if you are interested in natural swimming pools or want to talk to a landscape designer about your options for your own outdoor living spaces in the Poconos, Lehigh Valley, Main Line of Philadelphia or western New Jersey, reach out to us MasterPLAN Outdoor Living. We would love to explore all of your options with you and discover the full potential for your space!
Now, go out and enjoy your summer!
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