Saturday, 4 October 2008

Natural Pools: A Green Oasis

Summer may be coming to a close, but that doesn't mean it's too late to think about a trend that's merging the green and the wet: natural pools. A natural pool is a man-made swimming pool that utilizes natural means of cleaning itself. Instead of utilizing chemicals, these pools are carefully designed around plants that act as filtration systems. Usually, a deeper swimming area is surrounded by a larger, shallow area planted with plenty of water-loving plants. This water-garden area is called a regeneration zone, and a pump directs water from the swimming area through the garden zone to be filtered and cleaned by both the plants and a bed of gravel. The exact ratio of plants to size of pool and number of swimmers has been calculated by the professionals, allowing people to have completely chemical free yet safe swimming pools, right in their own back yards.

The concept is the same as a lake. There are enough natural filters in place that the average lake, if not overwhelmed by a pollution source, is perfectly safe for multiple people to swim in it on a regular basis. Plants are very affective at absorbing organic matter, neutralizing toxins and releasing oxygen into the water, giving the owners of these natural pools mini-sanctuaries in the privacy of their own backyards.

One factor to consider about a natural pool, called a swimming pond in Europe, is that it will need a larger footprint than the space you actually want for swimming. So these are most suited to larger yards. Typically, about half of the total area is the deeper swimming area and half is the water-garden area.

You will know if a natural pool is functioning properly because the water will be clear and luscious looking. Algae growth can occur, and is most common during the first year after the pool is developed. Once the plants grow and develop larger root systems, they will starve the algae and the water will clear up. With the right balance of plants, and a functioning pump to circulate the water, there should be minimal to no algae growth, just crystal clear, pure water and that sweet smell of lake-water.

Natural pools have been gaining popularity in Europe over the past twenty years or so, but there are only a few companies building them in the United States. They are so different looking compared to what people expect a pool to be, but the concept is taking off. It is no surprise that natural pools should become popular, as the "green" trend moves people away from things like chemicals and towards something like this that actually creates an ecosystem. Imagine attracting butterflies to your backyard swimming hole.

However one of the main obstacles to a natural swimming pool is zoning regulations. You will need a building permit to create one, and you might run into challenges from engineers and city officials who are unfamiliar with the concept. But referring them to the research done by the Kansas-based Total Habitat or California's Expanding Horizons will help.

By: Kevin Koitz

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