When I was a pilot, I spent years surveying the built environment from above.
One thing that amazed me is how many people own swimming pools. In some areas of the country, it seems that nearly everyone has a pool (often, the pool is almost as big as the footprint of the home itself).
But things have changed. We don’t have the luxury of allocating that much space to a sterile, unproductive pool of water that requires constant attention and financial support.
We need to put that space to work.
But are there any other options? Is it possible to build a pool that does more than just support our playtime?
I believe there is. It’s called a natural pool.
The natural pool doesn’t fight nature tooth and nail. It embraces it in a very tangible way.
Instead of engaging in chemical warfare, the natural pool uses an ecosystem of plants to cleanse and filter your swimming water. To do this, designers create a wetland in a shallow and distinct area of a pool to act as a biological filter.
This include the following components:
- Microorganisms. For example, zooplankton eat algae to keep your water clear.
- Aquatic plants. They absorb the nutrients that the bacteria break down. Indigenous plants are used as much as possible. You can also grow edible plants, for example, rice, watercress, or wasabi.
- An inert substrate. This way the plants are forced to draw their nutrients from the water itself, thereby keeping the water clean.
- Retaining wall. Enables water flow between the two areas but prevents the plants from doing so.
In practice, the shallow water of the wetland area is circulated into the deeper water of the swimming pool.
This circulation enables your bio-filter to cleanse the water as it goes. Upkeep is minimal – one simply has to trim the plants as necessary and remove fallen leaves.
There are no chemicals to buy, minimal electricity costs (one pump), and no PH level monitoring. If needed, the bio-filter can be supplemented with an automated skimmer or UV sanitizer.
As an added bonus, because the wetland is a distinct area, it can be added to an existing pool in a retrofit with minimal additional digging.
PS: Because the pool is designed for circulating water, the threat of mosquitoes is minimized. Additionally, wildlife (frogs, dragonflies) will be attracted to the vegetation-filled part of the pool you don’t swim in. They’ll provide a free pest management service. In contrast, when a chemically treated pool isn’t maintained, it can quickly collapse into a cesspool of larvae (as we saw during the foreclosure tsunami a couple of years ago).
PPS: I’ve been experimenting with aquascaped environments over the last couple of months, and I can attest that these systems take care of themselves if built correctly.
Resilient communities editor, Shlok Vaidya, contributed to this letter.