A Cool Pool Alternative

By Christopher Paquette

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 main- tain 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 refl ective 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 consist- ing 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 steril- ize water are used, and all clarifying and purifying of the water is achieved through biological fi lters and plants rooted hydro- ponically in the system. Even some major sewage treatment plants exist now that use bio fi ltration and plants fi lters 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 purify- ing qualities of nature works very well to

ere in Maine, even though and probably because, we have more than fi ve thousand lakes, ponds

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 miscon- ception 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 fi ltration 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 aver- age 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 wild- life 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. Dragonfl y will fl it and fl irt around your pool with ambition, landing on your aquatic plants in the fi lter 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 fi re 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 fi lter 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 fi ve thousand bodies of water here in Maine, right? But, a NSP is more than a pool. It’s a habitat and large water gar- den. Did you know that water gardens are the most popular addition to our gardens here in the U.S.? Since the early nineties, 25

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