A swimming pool can be a great way to cool off on a hot day. And a pool in your backyard offers opportunities for entertaining, recreation, and fitness. But is a cement basin filled with pool chemicals a sustainable option? Can pools be built in an environmentally friendly way?
Traditional pools have some drawbacks that you might want to avoid. They can detract from natural landscaping, and most require a lot of chemicals, which aren’t great for the environment and may even pose health risks.
A natural swimming pool is a good alternative to a traditional pool. Although they look and operate much differently than traditional pools, natural pools offer you similar advantages — and some additional benefits.
What Are Natural Swimming Pools?
While the term “natural” pool may make you think that these pools are created from naturally occurring bodies of water, a natural swimming pool is a human-made pool that uses nature to help maintain it. The pool consists of two sections: the swimming area, where you can enjoy regular pool activities, and the regeneration zone, which is filled with plant life that helps filter and clean the pool for you.
Natural swimming pools are often made of concrete like traditional pools, but most people paint the concrete black to make it appear more like a natural pond. And the living plants in the regeneration zone will add to the natural appearance — and beauty — of your pool.
Benefits of a Natural Swimming Pool
Maintenance for a traditional pool can be time-consuming and expensive: the national average cost for pool maintenance is between $350 and $1,050 although it varies depending on the size and type of pool.
But one of the biggest advantages of a natural swimming pool is its maintenance requirements. Well-built natural pools essentially maintain themselves. They can freeze in the winter, then thaw and revive in the spring so you don’t need to open and close them. They require no chemicals or water testing, so they save you money in the long term.
Instead of chemicals, natural pools use natural filtration — including plants and gravel — to clean the water. A pump keeps the water circulating between the regeneration zone and the swimming area. And the moving water even helps prevent breeding mosquitos!
Over time, your regeneration zone may become home to small aquatic animals, including microscopic algae-eating daphnia, snails, and amphibians, further enhancing your own personal water garden.
Cost and Time to Build
Building a natural swimming pool is not an inexpensive venture. It costs an average of $70,000 to build a natural pool, which is a bit higher than the average cost of building a traditional pool.
But the process of building your natural pool will take much longer than a traditional pool. You can expect it to take at least three months to complete your natural pool, so if you live in a cooler climate, you may not be able to use your pool the first year it’s built.
Because you will have a regeneration zone as well as a swimming zone, your pool will be larger and require more space than a traditional pool with the same size swimming area, so you’ll need a large yard.
Keep in mind that the regeneration zone and the swimming zone will be roughly equal in size. If the regeneration zone is located away from the swimming area, you will need to make sure there are pipes or other means for the water to circulate between the two sections.
The swimming area of a natural pool can be up to 12 feet deep on average, not dissimilar from a traditional pool. It’s also common to have stairs, a deck, and other features of a traditional pool.
The regeneration zone will be shallower, generally starting at around 6 inches and deepening to approximately 18 inches.
The very beginning phases of the pool construction will be similar to building a concrete pool: digging out the area and sides and pouring the bottom. However, you’ll likely want to edge your pool so it appears more natural in the landscaping, and you’ll need to take time for the plants to begin growing well in the regeneration zone.
The plants you choose will be dictated by your climate and your landscaping. So, be sure to speak with an expert natural pool builder about the best plant types and the pool’s design.
Consider a Natural Pool
Natural pools are low maintenance and beautiful, enhancing the landscaping and the environment where they’re installed. While they require more space and take longer to build, the benefits of a natural pool often outweigh these concerns. If you’re looking to install a new pool in your yard, consider a natural pool and enjoy a chemical-free, natural retreat.
About the Author
Cristina Miguelez is a remodeling specialist at Fixr.com, a website that connects consumers with service professionals in their area and estimates the cost for remodeling projects. She writes about home improvement tips and tricks to help homeowners make better home remodeling decisions.
Feature image courtesy of Clear Water Revival / CC BY-SA, Wikimedia Commons. Originally published on March 24, 2020, this article was updated in May 2022.