Natural pools use plants instead of chlorine to keep water clean. They’re way better for your health and the environment, and more fun to swim in!
Studies have linked chlorine and other pool chemicals to allergies, asthma, lung damage, cancer, DNA damage, heart problems and birth defects.
Chlorine’s bad reputation has led those who can afford it to invest in all kinds of expensive substitutes such as salt water (which still requires some chlorine), ionization and UV light treatment.
But, there’s another option that’s been popular in Europe for decades and is just making it’s debut in North America – the “natural” or “organic” swimming pool:
Basically it’s a swimming pool connected to a “side pool” or “border pool” filled with gravel, aquatic plants and animals that clean the water for you.
The natural area surrounding or to the side of the pool, called “the regeneration area” is kept separate from the swimming area with a retaining wall:
The water is pumped over the wall and through the regeneration area, which cleans, filters and oxygenates the water.
The plants in this area can include reeds, cattails, water lillies or any other native plant that acts as a filter.
Aquatic animals and bugs, like frogs and dragonflies, tend to stay in the regeneration area, while keeping mosquitoes and other pests at bay.
Instead of drying out your skin like chlorine, natural pools actually lubricate the skin, making you feel clean and soft. You can bathe in and even drink out of them.
According to the British magazine Permaculture, natural pools are far better for the environment and can provide habitat for endangered aquatic species.
The average swimming pool owner drains around 20,000 gallons of chlorinated water into the environment each winter. The algae inhibitors and other chemicals are damaging to natural ecosystems.
Natural pools do not need draining. In winter, you can let them freeze over and they’ll regenerate again in spring, without sucking up 20,000 gallons of fresh water each year.
Additionally, natural pools can serve as “a home to a host of endangered water species, who will further improve the filtering of the pool,” Sebastian von Holstein writes for Permaculture.
Germans have introduced the endangered water-filtering goose barnacle to their natural pools, which can filter up to 2,000 liters of water per day.
“There is a range of freshwater plants, fish, barnacles and mussels that form symbiotic relationships with one another to help filter your pool, while increasing the breeding rates of red-listed species, which can at a later date be released back into wild freshwater ponds and lakes,” Holstein says.
The natural swimming pool mimics natural systems, which are more cost effective and require less human labor to maintain, Holstein says.
“Just like healthy soil, a balanced water system contains all the micro-organisms needed to provide you with water so clean, you could wash with it and also drink it – many do!”
Natural pools require more money (or labor) to build up front, but are much cheaper in the long run.