A Cool Pool Alternative
Here in Maine, even though and probably because, we have more than five thousand lakes, ponds and streams, we all love a great swimming pool for about 8 short weeks every year. Somewhere between mud season and the ever too quick to arrive, but glorious fall, we bask in the sun beside and cool off in our pools. For all of this, we must maintain its chemistry, remove the persistent leaves and worry over it, year-round! This includes looking at its cement perimeter and green, bouncy looking cover stretched over the pool, hiding that reflective quality of the rippling water that is so loved, for more than half the year. I’m suggesting a pretty cool alternative, one that works here in Maine and anywhere else, with proper design – a Natural Swimming Pool or NSP for short.
There are hundreds of thousands of these around the world, and we are just catching up here in the U.S. In Europe, this is the most popular form of swimming pool.
What is a Natural Swimming Pool?
A natural swimming pool or natural swimming pond (NSP) is a system consisting of a constructed body of water, where the water is contained by an isolating membrane or membranes, in which no chemicals or devices that disinfect or sterilize water are used, and all clarifying and purifying of the water is achieved through biological filters and plants rooted hydroponically in the system. Even some major sewage treatment plants exist now that use bio filtration and plants filters to clean the water we drink.
One common question people have is do NSPs work as well as chlorine? Using plants and emulating the water purifying qualities of nature works very well to maintain the health of a natural pool, but more importantly, not using chemicals means no chlorine or chlorine by-products have been added to the watershed and no one has been exposed to chlorine or chlorine gas. There is a common misconception that chlorine immediately gets rid of all the germs that people swimming in a pool may cause. Associate director of the CDC’s Healthy Water program, Dr. Michael Beach, explains that “Chlorine binds with all the things it’s trying to kill from your bodies and it forms these chemical irritants. That’s what’s stinging your eyes. It’s the chlorine binding to the urine and sweat.” Therefore, you should never get red eye from swimming in a NSP.
Natural Swimming Pools Use Less Energy
Another advantage of NSPs over traditional pools is they cost less over time. First, they use less energy. They are designed with either very small pumps or variable speed drive motors that allow the energy to be matched to the needs of the pool. They typically do not need the high filtration rates that regular pools require. Some parts of their system only run during daylight hours, further reducing energy use. Second, most NSP or GSPs (Garden Swim Ponds) use a heavy rubber membrane which lasts more than 30 years. The average vinyl pool liner is good for less than 15 years with use.
Enjoy Your NSP Year Round
When you are not swimming in one, you are able to enjoy the habitat your pool and its surroundings provide. No cover! Long after you’re done swimming, the wildlife will visit to entertain, the shrubs and trees will continue to grow and the lighting will provide years of enjoyment. With the larger GSPs, you can even skate on them during the cold winter months!
What Wildlife Will Visit?
With a NSP, you are creating a living habitat. A habitat lush with natives, like frogs, birds, and the occasional deer or moose. Dragonfly will flit and flirt around your pool with ambition, landing on your aquatic plants in the filter zone. Each year, polliwogs will clean the surface of your pool, develop into frogs, and move out into your woods, only to come back and participate in an annual orchestra of nature during the Spring mating season. There is no need to be afraid of frogs since they don’t bite and listening to their chorus by a warm fire in the Spring is a glorious Maine experience.
There is a misconception that these pools aren’t as clean as regular pools, because there are “critters” in them. The fact is most of these “critters” end up in regular pools as well; they just don’t last long, before being broken down into stuff the sand filter can catch and remove. If you are okay swimming in a clean lake, you are going to love a properly designed NSP or GSP. Swimming in one of them leaves your skin feeling soft and clean.
The Value of an NSP
When you install a standard pool, you can actually make your home harder to sell. There’s a whole segment of buyers that don’t want a pool. After all, we have more than five thousand bodies of water here in Maine, right? But, a NSP is more than a pool. It’s a habitat and large water garden. Did you know that water gardens are the most popular addition to our gardens here in the U.S.? Since the early nineties, our thirst for moving water and ponds has grown by leaps and bounds. There are pond equipment companies that are fortune five hundred companies now!
Besides being energy efficient, chemical free, and beautiful to enjoy, there’s another reason to consider a NSP; Habitat replacement. There’s a good chance you or your neighbors house was built on habitat that was supporting the type of flora and fauna that these pools support. Land is scarce, and filling areas in to support housing is more than common, it’s prevalent. There’s a growing interest in native plants and habitats in our gardens. By owning a NSP, you are supporting this effort immensely, by providing water to support the native critters which live all around us. They, as us, need clean water. In today’s world, we have choices about everything we do in our homes. We should always weigh them against the environment and our health and well being, as well as longevity. Our choice to swim in clean water with no chemicals is a viable, healthy one that more and more of us are making every year.
Chris Paquette has been teaching thousands of gardeners and pond enthusiasts about the science of water features through Maine Garden Day, Southern Maine Community College and various seminars at the Portland Flower Show. Robin’s Nest has won numerous awards at the Portland Flower Show and has been featured in Garden Design Magazine; People, Places and Plants; and The Maine Sunday Telegram. To learn more about this healthy, outdoor lifestyle addition, call 207-727-3910 or visit: www.mygardenspa.com.