After 30-plus years of swimming in chlorinated pools, I can tell you that I’m sick and tired of red eyes, dried-out skin, green hair and bleached swimsuits. I’m ready for a change, and that change just may be a natural swimming pool (NSP). These chemical-free beauties are not only eco-friendly, they add loads of natural beauty to your backyard. Since natural swimming pools are a relatively new concept in America (they’ve been popular in Europe for more than three decades), let’s take a closer look at how they work.

What Are Natural Swimming Pools?

Natural swimming pools use a combination of plants and gravel to keep the water fresh and clear. Water passes through this biofilter — called the regeneration zone — and filters back into the swimming area, clarified and completely clean. A specialized skimmer removes any debris from the surface of the swim zone before the water is circulated back into the regeneration zone.

Natural swimming pools don’t have to look like “ye old swimming hole” — they come in a variety of styles. Furthermore, their size can be adjusted to fit your needs; they work in everything from small urban yards to large rural properties. The most important thing to remember is that the size of the regeneration and swimming zones should be equal for sufficient water cleansing, so keep that in mind during the planning stages.

How Do I Install a Natural Swimming Pool?

Though there are DIY kits and books mapping out how to install a natural swimming pool, it’s highly recommended you hire a professional. NSPs are constructed wetlands ecosystems, based on the principles of limnology, hydraulics, hydroponics and modern pool construction methods. Long-term success is dependent upon ecological stability, which means all these principles must be carefully incorporated. If you want a safe, clean and beautiful pool, the whole system needs to be planned and crafted by an experienced and knowledgeable landscape architect or pool builder.

How Do I Maintain a Natural Swimming Pool?

Though natural swimming pools can be used immediately, it takes roughly two to three years until a stable biological equilibrium is reached. Once balance has been achieved, an NSP will need significantly less regular maintenance than a traditional swimming pool. Daily maintenance consists of tending the water garden and clearing the skimmer of debris.

Seasonal care and maintenance is still required over the course of the year, but it differs greatly from the care of a conventional swimming pool. Unlike a chemically treated pool, you don’t have to cover, drain or refill the pool in different seasons. Depending on your climate, seasonal care includes adding new plants to the garden during spring, replenishing evaporated water in the summer and cutting the plants back during the winter.

Natural Swimming Pools Frequently Asked Questions

Natural swimming pools require less maintenance than their conventional counterparts. Photo: Shutterstock

Being rather new to the States, there are a lot of misconceptions surrounding natural swimming pools. Here are some of the most common questions homeowners have:

What are the benefits of a natural swimming pool?

A traditional pool discharges up to three times its volume of water into the sewer per year. Since the water in a natural swimming pool is not drained and refilled, wastewater isn’t being discharged into the sewer — conserving this precious resource. What’s more, NSPs don’t rely on electric pool filters and pumps, and can easily be heated by solar power. This means you can enjoy a swimming pool free of energy consumption!

Is the water safe?

We’re used to water that’s been disinfected by chlorine, salt or mechanical means; therefore, it’s understandable that we’re wary of any water that isn’t. However, since the water in an NSP is continuously being passed through a biological filter and into the regeneration zone, it is 100 percent safe.

Are natural pools cheaper or more expensive than traditional pools?

It’s pretty much a wash. Though construction cost per square foot is the same for both natural swimming pools and traditional pools, NSPs are typically twice the size of their traditional cousins, thanks to the regeneration zone. However, that cost is recuperated by not having to pay for the yearly chemical and labor upkeep associated with traditional pools.

Do I have to worry about insects and other critters?

When it comes to natural swimming pools, the first thing that usually comes up is the concern over mosquitoes. Mosquitoes only breed in standing water, and since the water in a natural pool is never stagnant, mosquitoes will avoid it.

However, amphibious and aquatic creatures like frogs, salamanders and dragonflies often make their homes in the regeneration zones of natural swimming pools. This is a good thing, as it means the swimming pool ecosystem is clean and balanced enough to support life. Furthermore, these creatures eat mosquitoes and their larvae! Frogs and insects will stay within the regeneration zone, as that’s their habitat — they are not attracted to the swimming zone.

Will algae grow in a natural swimming pool?

Yes, algae will grow, but it’s nothing to worry about. The aquatic plants in the regeneration zone will out-compete the algae for nutrients, essentially starving them to death. If any algae does make it into the swimming zone, the water skimmer will take care of the problem!

If you’re interested in adding a natural swimming pool to your backyard, start by checking your local planning and zoning laws to make sure it’s legal. Then, search for a reputable installer — be sure to read reviews and ask questions, as it’s important you find someone who knows exactly what they’re doing. Finally, spread the word about natural pools: bust myths, answer questions and share as much as you can about the awesomeness of these chemical-free pools. Best of luck, and happy swimming!

Read More:
America’s Prettiest Natural Swimming Holes
How to Create an Environmentally Friendly Oasis in Your Backyard

By Liz Greene

Liz Greene is an animal-loving, makeup-obsessing pop culture geek from the beautiful City of Trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch her latest makeup misadventures on her blog, Three Broke Bunnies.