There are few experiences that are as refreshing as dipping into a cool swimming pool on a sweltering summer day. As climate change continues and summer temperatures soar, taking refuge in cool water is one way to beat the heat (and keep sanity intact). Unfortunately, most swimming pools are full of chemicals which are harmful to human skin/eyes and toxic to surrounding soil and plants. A natural swimming pool is one that is designed to harness the processes of nature to produce clean, clear water. These types of pools have been available in Europe for a while, but are only starting to catch on in North America. Fortunately, as more people become aware of the importance of environmental stewardship, these natural pools are starting to grow in popularity.

Image via Green Mom

Also known as “swimming ponds”, natural natural pools work by filtering the water through a filter zone, which generally involves a number of different aquatic plants on haydite rocks, which act as organic, living filters. Ultraviolet filters can help to keep algae in check, and the plant life creates a working ecosystem that keeps bacteria at health-friendly levels. Through these processes, the water of a natural pool is able to meet European standards for bacteria levels, making it safe for swimming. Furthermore if designed properly the water looks crystal clear—and it won’t turn your hair green!

These natural pond ecosystems can draw all kinds of wildlife to the area, from flowers and mosses that spring up around the pool to amphibians and even ducks. Depending on the pool’s size and what region you live in, that pond can also double as a skating rink if it freezes over in wintertime.

Obviously natural pools aren’t for everyone, as these pools require a fair bit of maintenance (skimming out leaves, pulling out the occasional frog), as well as a different mindset regarding to how to maintain them. That said, for those who are interested, the benefits are clear. The very low use of chemicals means a lower impact on the environment, and the regeneration zones required for these pools creates an integrated landscape design that will give your backyard a more organic and natural look. Once filtration issues are sorted out, natural pools are undoubtedly a lot healthier for swimmers as well as for all life around them.

+ TotalHabitat

+ New York Times Article on Natural Pools

Lead image via ArchiExpo