How to Build a Natural Swimming Pool | Waccabuc Real Estate

Though fairly common in Europe, natural swimming pools (like the one pictured  above in an Austrian family’s backyard), are in their infancy in the United  States. Ask most American swimming-pool contractors to build a backyard pool and  chances are they’ll roll out a long list of goods, including rebar, gunite,  fiberglass, chlorine and an energy-sapping filtration system. If you need to resurface your pool visit But in recent  years, a few builders and a growing number of homeowners have learned how to  build pools without relying on a mass of manufactured materials and chemical  additives. They’ve found it’s possible to construct pools that are more about  building with nature and blending into the natural landscape. Natural swimming  pools use gravel stone and clay in place of concrete or fiberglass, and aquatic  plants instead of harmful chemicals and complicated mechanical filtering  systems. The plants enrich the pool with oxygen, support beneficial bacteria  that consume debris and potentially harmful organisms, and give habitat to  frogs, dragonflies and other water life. The result is a beautiful, ecologically  diverse system that is relatively inexpensive to construct. (A natural pool can  he constructed for as little as $2,000 if you do it yourself, while conventional  pools can cost tens of thousands of dollars.) Natural swimming pools require no  harmful chemIcals, are fairly low-tech, and once established call for only a  modicum of management. You won’t have to drain the pool each autumn. Except for  topping it off now and then, you’ll fill the pool only once.


The cheapest and most ecologically sound way to build a swimming pool is  simply to hollow a hole in the ground. You can make your pool as shallow or as  deep as you want, but the key is to make sure the sides slope: Otherwise the  soil will cave in. The ratio should be a 1-foot vertical drop for every 3  horizontal feet. “It’s not a bathtub effect, but more like a soup bowl,” says  Tom Zingaro, partner with Denver-based Blue Lotus Designs, a pool-and  pond-architecture company. One of the main reasons traditional swimming pools  are constructed with a steel framework is to ensure the walls stay vertical and  perpendicular to the bottom surface of the pool. Construct a pool with sloping  sides and you’ll eliminate the need for any steel reinforcement.


Reserving at least 50 percent of your pool’s surface area for shallow plants,  either at one end or in a ring around the sides, eliminates the need for  chlorine and expensive filters and pumps. You’ll want to separate the swimming  area of your pool and the filtration area, or plant zone (see the illustration).  A rim within an inch of the water’s surface keeps plants in their place but  allows water from the swimming area to move to the plant zone for filtering, As  water passes through the fibrous root structure of the plants, bacteria  concentrated on the plants’ roots act as a biological filter, removing  contaminants and excess nutrients in the water. Decomposer organisms, also found  in the plants’ root zones, consume the bacteria, effectively eliminating  underwater waste buildup.

Inside the plant zone, the water should get steadily deeper, reaching a  maximum depth of 18 inches near the swimming zone. The outermost 6 inches of the  plant zone will be 2 to 3 inches deep, providing a home for taller aquatic  plants. Submergent and floating vegetation occupy the deeper area.

Besides cleaning the water and making your pool beautiful to behold, the  shallow plant zone warms the water quickly and provides habitat for frogs and  many invertebrates. They’ll appreciate the shallow water for breeding grounds  and repay the favor by eating mosquito larvae.


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