Make a Splash: Natural Swimming Pools

Backyard swimming doesn’t have to be at odds with the environment. With natural pools, you can swim chemical-free while creating a thriving habitat for plants and animals.

| July/August 2002

  • Planted shorelines help the pond appear natural and also function as a filter.
    Photo Courtesy Biotop
  • Natural pools can be installed in about two months. Pictured here, an elegant pool in Austria.
    Photo Courtesy Biotop
  • In Europe, natural pools are an increasingly popular alternative to ­chemically maintained pools.
    Photo Courtesy Biotop

In Europe, where nude beaches are common and pragmatism is par for the course, it was only a matter of time before pools went au naturel. Natural pools, a clever, chemical-free mix of water garden and the swimming hole you remember as a child, have been mellowing out homeowners on the other side of the Atlantic for fifteen years.

Water plants foster the growth of beneficial microorganisms that kill bacteria and keep natural pools clean enough to comply with the European Union’s strict water quality standards. The plant portion, or regeneration zone, is separated from the swimming area by a wall concealed a few inches below the water’s surface. Sunlight heats the water in the regeneration zone naturally, and the warm water gradually filters into the two-meter-deep swimming area. A synthetic pool liner keeps the whole thing from leaking.

Biotop, an Austrian company, pioneered the concept in 1985 and has been perfecting it ever since. Along with thirty-six partners in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and England, the company has installed more than 1,500 natural pools. Tim and Tish Rickard and their two sons, Jack and Tom, became England’s first natural pool owners in October 2001. “I’m one of nature’s optimists,” Tim says. “If we were rich and famous, the pool would be as big as possible.” The family stumbled across chemical-free swimming while searching for ways to rehabilitate a pond on their Gloucester County farm.

As of late January, fifteen-year-old Jack was the only person to brave the Rickard’s new natural pool—the rest of the family was still waiting for warmer weather. “We’re happy in principle, but the plants haven’t begun to grow yet,” Tim says. “They should come up in spring, but Biotop still doesn’t know if it will work at this altitude.” (In general, a natural pool should be ready for use about sixty days after planting.) Tim feels fairly confident, however, that the family’s venture will succeed given Biotop’s track record in Austria and the company’s slow but steady expansion in other European countries.

6/13/2014 1:43:56 AM

There's a lot to be said for swimming pools where nudity is the 'rule'. We strictly; enforce that rule in our! But we don't encourage hanky panky. But we've been known to turn a blind eye!

2/8/2014 6:03:15 AM

Natural swimming pools are very useful for the people, in this type of pool you can get the water purification system is very well. From the sun light it can create the water heat and filter the water also.

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