THE green revolution has brought many new pleasures to suburban gardens, not least of which is the remarkable experience of swimming in fresh, pure, silky-soft water, previously known only to those with access to a mountain stream. And the eco pool is even better in some ways, because the water temperature is usually at least a few degrees warmer!
It’s all made possible by applying the power of nature. Instead of a ton of eye-smarting chemicals, banks of aquatic plants filter and purify the water, just as they do in wetlands.
And instead of a sterile patch of blinding blue, you have soothing reflections, the delights of a water garden and a whole ecosystem; a world of birds, insects, and aquatic creatures, as well as a delicious place to swim.
There are other significant advantages too; because these systems require a less powerful pump than a standard pool you could reduce your pool’s electricity bill by as much as 60%. And there’s far less maintenance.
HOW A NATURAL SWIMMING POND WORKS Natural or eco pools need to be designed by an expert. They are usually constructed in two parts: a clear swimming area and a shallower filtration area where the plants grow, usually in gravel rather than soil, which is too rich in nutrients. This may be a walled bed within the perimeter of the pool, alongside it or completely separate but connected by piping.
A small pump circulates the water from the swimming area through the filtration area. Here filters inoculated with beneficial micro-organisms break down wastes which are absorbed by the plants, leaving clean, clear water that flows into the swimming area and back again.
In conventional chemically treated pools, nutrients tend to build up over time, creating perfect conditions for algae and bacteria to flourish. This is why you need to use more and more chemicals to keep the water clear. Conversely, natural swimming pools need less and less care as the plants use up all the nutrients, leaving nothing to encourage algae or bacteria.
AN IDEA WHOSE TIME HAS COMEThe natural swimming pond was developed in Austria in the 1980s, but only gained world attention when an example was featured at the Chelsea Flower Show in 2005. By then the mood had turned green and the time was right.
Demand has since exploded, according to water scientist Dr Jerome Davis, a biological filtration expert who founded Ecopools South Africa in 2006. At the same time huge strides have been made in the technology, making it much simpler to achieve and maintain the right balance for a perfectly functioning ecosystem. “We’ve discovered that the most important thing is to understand the water chemistry in any particular site and we design the filtration around that,” he says.
For instance, it was initially not possible to apply the principle to small pools but now even plunge pools no more than two metres across can be successfully built.
Each installation is specifically designed to suit not only the water chemistry but also the microclimate and the style of the garden.
Ecopools now works all over the world with a network of international partners and a a great South African success story.
CONVERSIONS AND CONVERTS
Most standard pools can be converted, with considerable success. Dedicated environmentalists Frank and Ida Raimondo converted their old rectangular pool three years ago. Frank looked upon it as an experiment and did not want to tamper with the pool shell in any way, in case the conversion did not work to his satisfaction.
So Jerome Davis used floating rafts of plants in polywood anchored to the rim of the pool.
“We’re absolutely thrilled with it,” says Ida. “It makes for wonderful swimming and it looks so much more attractive in the garden.” She points out, however, that just as an organic garden has a different aesthetic, so do natural pools.
“This is not an environment without little nunus, and not everyone likes that idea.”
While the water is absolutely pure and clean enough to drink, some people feel squeamish about swimming with water beetles, small crustaceans and other aquatic life.
If you are a less-than-dedicated eco gardener, you can convert a traditional blue pool to a much more natural looking rock pool.
The water will still be chemically treated but the pool will look very appealing and much more harmonious in the garden picture. Visit www.dewetenviro.co.za for examples of this.
The organic filtration section in a natural swimming pool is actually a wetland in miniature that will draw a whole new range of birds, insects and frogs to your garden
It provides a superb window into nature for children and the ecosystem also supports various predators such as dragonfly larvae, water beetles, and skimmers, all of which eat mosquito larvae — so, no mosquitoes, at least not from the pool. The water in natural swimming ponds is highly oxygenated; mosquitoes only breed in low-oxygen environments such as stagnant pools.
Wild geese and migrant duck may visit the pool without too many problems, but if you have a permanent flock of domestic duck they should be kept away as they will deposit too many nutrients into the system. Fish are likewise not a good idea. © Source: Home Weekly