Natural, no-chlorine pools springing up in U.S.

MICK HILLEARY, an industrial designer who builds zoo exhibits and trade show displays, and who expanded into residential pools five years ago, has found that Americans have a clearly defined idea of what constitutes a proper swimming pool.

“It’s a white-tiled thing,” said Mr. Hilleary, whose company, Total Habitat, in Bonner Springs, Kan., specializes in what could be called the opposite of the white- or blue-tiled things found in millions of backyards across the country.

The “natural pools” that Total Habitat builds are bordered with wood, planted with lush vegetation and free of chemicals like chlorine; they resemble nothing so much as a swimming hole. “It’s natural-looking, like a pond,” Mr. Hilleary said. “But the water looks so clean. People really want to swim in it, more than in a farm pond.”

Natural swimming pools (or swimming ponds, as they are called in Europe, where the concept originated 20 years ago) are self-cleaning pools that combine swimming areas and water gardens. Materials and designs vary — the pools can be lined with rubber or reinforced polyethylene, as in the case of Total Habitat’s, and may look rustic or modern — but all natural pools rely on “regeneration” zones, areas given over to aquatic plants that act as organic cleansers.

Waterworks

The pools have skimmers and pumps that circulate the water through the regeneration zone and draw it across a wall of rocks, loose gravel or tiles, to which friendly bacteria attach, serving as an additional biological filter. Unlike artificial ponds, which tend to be as murky with groundwater runoff and sediment from soil erosion as the natural ponds they’re modeled on, in a natural pool the water is clear enough to see through to the bottom.

More info:  New York Times article

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