Diving into clear liquid silk, I comfortably open my eyes and catch the glitter of a school of fish. Surfacing, I hear frogs calling amongst lush indigenous water plants. After my swim, my skin feels soft and hydrated, my hair is nourished and my eyes cleansed. I am thoroughly energized. I could be describing a mountain stream or a forest glade but I am actually in the middle of the City swimming in the delicious, pure water of a Natural Swimming Pool™.
Natural Swimming Pools™ or Eco Pools™ are the environmentally friendly alternative to conventional swimming pools. Instead of using chemicals or salt (really just another source of chlorine), Eco Pools™ are designed to function as balanced ecosystems. When aquatic ecosystems are healthy, the water in them is crystal clear – just think of ponds and streams in nature, and how wonderful it is to swim in them. Eco Pools™ are even better – they are cleaner (no mud on the bottom), safer (the water is absolutely pure) and since it is in the garden you don’t need a 4x4 to get there.
Dr. Jerome Davis, whose company, aQua-design, creates Eco Pools™ explains that: “Natural pools work biologically instead of chemically. The plants in the ecosystem absorb whatever nutrients may be in the water and use it for their growth. This leaves nothing behind in the water for algae to live on. The plants also shade the water, sheltering zooplankton and other aquatic animal life that feed on algae and bacteria, stripping whatever nutrients or algae might remain. This leaves pure, clean water behind for swimming. The water is also highly oxygenated which controls mosquito larvae.”
The plants are contained in an aquatic garden, which is usually separated from the swimming area of the pool. The aqua garden can be constructed next to the pool or displayed as a water feature in another part of the garden and linked to the pool, either through underground pipes or a small stream. There is a wonderful diversity of indigenous wetland plants that are used for natural pools that we rarely see in our gardens. It is exciting to work with the unusual textures and foliage of wetland plants, most of which are powerful water cleansers.
Maintaining an Eco Pool™ is really just like maintaining a garden (as opposed to running a chemistry experiment). Aqua gardens need even less maintenance than terrestrial gardens: they don’t need weeding, watering, mowing, mulching or fertilizing. Pests are controlled by frogs and dragon flies. The leaf traps need to be cleared and dead leaves need to be pruned, but if you miss a month or two, the ecosystem will be strong enough to keep the water clear. Pruned water plant material makes excellent mulch and compost due to its high water and bacterial content.
The wetland will attract an incredible diversity of life: crabs, frogs, dragonflies, skaters, water beetles, shrimps, water birds, weavers, and many more. As opposed to a sterile blue chemical pool (surrounded with a barrier of paving to protect the surrounding plants from corrosive chemicals), Eco Pools™ integrate completely, becoming the living, pulsing heart of the garden, brimming with life. Although the water itself is completely clear, the pools reflect the surrounding vegetation as a very pale, translucent green with ever-changing hints of red, blue, gold and yellow. The water is infused with healthy energy and can be used for drinking or cooking. It is also slightly warmer due to solar heating in the shallow water of the aqua-garden.
Because the filtration process is slow and gentle, eco Pools use very small pumps and therefore much less electricity than conventional pools.
The only problem with an Eco Pool™ is that once you have swum in one, it is impossible to swim in anything else.About aQua-design
Eco Pools™ are created by aQua-design, who have pioneered the technology in South Africa. Internationally, the concept has been around for some time (search the web for “Natural Swimming Pools”). Thousands of Natural Swimming Pools have been built worldwide, including many municipal and public pools, especially in Austria, Switzerland and Germany, where they were first commercialized. The biological design intelligence behind aQua-design is Dr. Jerome Davis who holds a Ph.D. in Bio-engineering from the Royal University of Ghent in Belgium. Dr. Davis has a solid background in marine and freshwater biology and has been involved in the aquaculture industry for 20 years. He has hybridized this technology to create the natural pool concept in South Africa. This design savvy is essential. Every aQua-designed natural swimming pool is unique. It has to be: every garden has its particular nuance, its individual set of biological and aesthetic parameters, which need to be considered in the design of the ecosystem and the final, perfect product. For more information please swim on over to www.naturalswimmingpools.co.za