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Natural Swimming Pools

By Edited Feb 20, 2016 3 11

Natural Swimming Pools

There are those who swim in lakes, rivers, ponds, the sea. There are those who swim in chemical swimming pools. (By chemical swimming pools, I mean the ones we usually see – lined with blue tiles and filled with water that smells of chlorine or some other sterilising chemical.) How many have come across a pool that is a cross between the two? A pool that has been created by the hand of man, in the same way as a garden pond, but which can be swum in? Not only because of its size, but because the water is clean enough to swim in, just as the sea, rivers and lakes are. These are Natural Swimming Pools, gaining popularity all over the world, mainly among private pool owners but also in the realm of public pools.

Why do people choose the natural pool over the chemical one? Here are some reasons in people's own words:

  • “It reminds me of my childhood.” (This usually comes from people over 40. Urban-raised youth rarely has memories of swimming in ponds and similar small bodies of water.)

  • “I am allergic to chlorine.”

  • “It's my water garden – a part of my garden in every season.”

  • “It's so ecological.”

  • “It makes me feel a part of nature, like walking in a forest or climbing a mountain.”

How does a natural pool function?

Think first of how a chemical pool functions. There is all the water. To make sure that the water stays clean, i.e., free of particles that could putrefy, there is a system of circulation so that the water can pass through filters. This 'cleaning', however, isn't enough. Bacteria cannot be eliminated by filtering – and if people have to enter the water and swim, they need water that is free of harmful bacteria. (Keeping in mind always that every person who enters releases substances into the water that could be harmful to other swimmers.) The solution, then, is to introduce a substance that effectively kills these pathogens and keeps on killing them. Chlorine.

Coming back to our original question: How does a natural pool function?

 To begin with, you have to understand that a natural pool is made up of two specific areas – the swimming area and the regeneration area. The regeneration area is the part given over to the plants and the gravel (or clay) that the plants are rooted in – the part that gives the pool its natural look. And the swimming area is the part that is used by swimmers.

This tells us that the plants and the gravel are actively involved in the regeneration, or the purification, of the water. How? It's quite simple: putting together these natural elements creates an ecosystem. An ecosystem is when a set of (organic and inorganic) elements live together and are interdependent for their well-being (the well-being of the individual and the well-being of the species). These elements are: the water (of course), the gravel and the aquatic plants. Other contributors to the ecosystem, such as animals and bacteria, come uninvited and do not need to be put in. This ecosystem maintains itself with a little help from the hand of man. The help consists in the circulation and filtering of the water. Circulation is required so that the water can pass through filters, thus removing the larger debris (such as fallen leaves or dead animal matter). But this 'cleaning' does not mean that the water is pure and safe for bathing in. For this, the water has to pass through a biological filter, i.e., the gravel.

To sum up, this is how the water is kept clean:

  • plants use decomposed matter so that there is no waste buildup in the water
  • filters remove larger debris (that would also decompose naturally and be absorbed by the plants but over a longer period of time)
  • the water, as it circulates, passes through the gravel and is now pure in the same way as spring water is pure. The purification is done by the earth's own metabolic processes. In such a setting, there is no place for pathogens.

A natural balance comes into being, forming a living, dynamic, ecosystem. A human brings together the plants, the water and its circulation; Nature does the rest. Animals come along – water fleas, pond skaters, dragon flies and frogs find a home for themselves or their offspring; birds and bats fly in to feed off the insects or their larvae; everyone contributes to the upkeep of the 'house'. There are those pool-owners who introduce fish as well, making the family larger. And this can invite fish-eating birds... “The more, the merrier.”

That, in a nutshell, is a Natural Swimming Pool. Try one and you'll never want to enter a chemical pool again.




Sep 22, 2012 6:36am
Interesting article; I had no idea people were doing this. Is this easier or harder to maintain than a common swimming pool?
Sep 26, 2012 1:26am
'Easier' or 'harder' depends on what kind of person you are. If you are the kind of person who likes to garden, then the maintenance of the plant part isn't work - it's pleasure, leisure, relaxation. The pump and filters have to be maintained as in a chemical swimming pool. The swimming area has to be kept clean using a robot, brushes, etc because the growth of algae (because chlorine and algicides aren't used) has to be checked.
If you're ever in Italy (where I live), do come and have a swim in our pool!
Sep 23, 2012 5:10am
This looks beautiful. I have a pool that is treated with chlorine. I have always hated that chlorine smell and often wonder if it's doing some unseen damage on some level to our bodies, etc.

I would take a natural pool in a heartbeat if I could. At first when I read your article I thought, "how in the world will they keep something like this clean enough to swim in" and then you answered my question. Plants, filters, etc.

Natures way is always the best I guess. Anything man-made can never measure up to it.
Sep 23, 2012 7:52pm
I didn't know that this was possible.
Very cool. If I have have the opportunity for a pool - this will be my way to go - the natural way.

Great read!
Sep 24, 2012 8:53pm

Sep 26, 2012 1:28am
See the real thing - swim in it - and you're sure to say "Wow wow wow!"
Sep 25, 2012 10:48pm
Cool, I like natural things like this
Sep 30, 2012 1:49pm
This is an option I came across not too long ago, what a great idea - I can never get our pool chemicals right! Great article!
Oct 1, 2012 4:29am
I did not know this was possible either. It make such good sense. Smart idea.
Nov 5, 2012 9:58pm
interesting article...this is news to me, I have heard of salt-water pools, but this is an interesting idea, thanks.
Jan 26, 2013 8:40am
Natural pools are fascinating. I'm not sure I'd ever want one myself, but it's awesome that other people are building these.
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