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Natural Swimming Pools

Lightwave is currently designing a natural swimming pool in Yamba, northern NSW.

While popular in Europe since the 1970s, natural swimming pools are now gaining popularity in Australia. In today’s synthetic environment where over-stimulation and technology are common factors in people’s lives, natural alternatives and chemical free environments are taking hold. Natural pools are an organic alternative to the usual backyard pool as they aim to mimic the conditions of a freshwater swimming hole or mountain stream and the aesthetics of nature. Not only are they ecologically friendly but they use no chemicals, are low maintenance and cost very little to run.

A natural pool is all about building and blending with nature and a perfect example of Permaculture – a holistic ecological approach to the design and development of part of a human settlement, using natural resources, landscape and plant systems.

Design options range from free form to formal design with architectural lines. Common materials used are gravel stone and clay, in place of concrete or fiberglass, with either synthetic liners or a layer of bentonite clay to seal the soil.

Aquatic plants are used instead of harmful chemicals and complicated mechanical filtering systems; the plants enrich the pool with oxygen, support beneficial bacteria that consume debris and potentially harmful organisms, and give habitat to water life such as frogs and dragonflies.

A popular set up option is for the swimming area to be separated from the planted, biological filter area with a waterfall offering aeration. A skimmer collects large debris and a UV steriliser finishes off the water cleaning process and assures biological safety.


The pool is divided into two areas: one for plants (the regeneration zone) and one for swimming. At least half of the pool’s surface area will be shallow plants. A rim within an inch of the water’s surface keeps plants in their place but allows water from the swimming area to move to the plant zone for filtering. As the water passes through the root structure of the plants, bacteria concentrated on the plants’ roots act as a biological filter, removing contaminants and excess nutrients in the water. Decomposer organisms, also found in the plant’s root zones, consume the bacteria effectively eliminating underwater waste buildup. Submerged and floating vegetation occupy the deeper area.

Besides cleaning the water and making your pool beautiful to look at, the shallow plant zone warms the water quickly and provides habitat for frogs. They’ll appreciate the shallow water for breeding and will in turn eat the mosquito larvae.

Very little maintenance is involved with a natural pool – removing plant litter and keeping your water level constant. Inexpensive test kits, available in garden centres, will allow you to monitor your pool’s nutrient levels, alerting you to problems.­ Think of looking after your pool more like gardening with the result being an ecologically diverse system that is relatively inexpensive and once established requires only minimal management and enjoyment for years to come.


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