Traditional swimming pool

Updated 2021

The environmental differences of traditional and natural pools

You’ve got the two-story Victorian home with the white picket fence and acres and acres of flowing land. You’re just missing one thing: a pool. 

A pool looks great, gives you a place to relax, and can even raise the value of your home. When it comes to installing a pool, you have two choices: A traditional pool or a natural pool

A traditional pool may seem like a no-brainer – they are incredibly common, after all. But the reality is that while it’s relaxing for you, it puts a major strain on the human body as well as the environment. Let’s talk about why.

The drawbacks of traditional pools

Pool cleaning

As relaxing as a traditional pool is, it has some serious drawbacks for every swimmer.

Pools are a lot of work to maintain. You have to make sure that they are cleaned regularly from falling debris and dirt, keep the pH just right using special chemicals, and invest in pricey filtration systems.

In addition, swimming pool chlorine and other chemicals used to keep pools clean have many health risks to the human body. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the chlorine in pools is a potent irritant to the eyes, lungs, and upper respiratory tract. Chronic exposure to it can even result in throat irritation and airflow obstruction.

Aside from chlorine, overexposure to other pool chemicals can increase the risk of developing a range of ailments. This includes allergic reactions, red eyes, and dry skin after even just a short time in the pool. There are more serious health effects as well, including respiratory illnesses and cancer.

Not only are the chemicals used in swimming pools bad for the human body, but they’re also taxing on the environment. Here’s how.

The harmful environmental effects of chemically treated pools

Energy consumption

The pumps used to circulate water in treated pools and keeping them clean and free of algae are major energy consumers. Pool pumps can consume anywhere 3,000 to over 5,000 kWh per year. In fact, the Energy Information Agency estimated that .9% of all the residential energy used in the United States comes from swimming pools.

Water waste

Because of evaporation and leaks, swimming pools waste a significant amount of water each year.

Understandably, most pool owners don’t cover their pools during the seasons they use them. But because they’re typically used during the hottest months of the year, water evaporation rates are high. To compensate, they constantly add more water to replace the water that has evaporated. 

While some evaporated water is certainly expected, the chemicals being released into the air surrounding the pool are not. These evaporated chemicals contribute to the production of greenhouse gases.

Furthermore, it is estimated that 1 in every 5 swimming pools has a leak and 1 in every 20 pools has a severe leak. What, exactly, is leaving into the earth below? Chlorine and bromine, both of which are extremely harmful to animals and organisms living in soil and water.

Potent chemicals

Pool chemicalsChemicals made for pools, such as chlorine, have a negative impact on the environment and a variety of living creatures, including pets. If exposed repeatedly, not only will these chemicals affect their immune system, but also their blood, heart, and respiratory systems.

In addition, draining and discharging chemically-treated water can cause problems to waterways when done incorrectly.

According to the National Swimming Pool Foundation, there are over 10.4 million residential swimming pools in the United States, and we can assume a large majority of these are traditional, chemically treated pools. 

How do you make an eco-friendly pool?

Design credit: Culliton Quinn Landscape Architecture

If every pool owner made steps to make their pool environmentally-friendly, the effects would be massively reduced. 

There are several ways to approach environmentally friendly swimming pools, such as installing energy-efficient pumps, covering your pool with a pool blanket to reduce chemical and water evaporation, and converting your chemically treated swimming pool into a natural swimming pool.

The benefits of building a natural pool

Natural backyard pool

A natural swimming pool is a chemical-free pool that uses natural principles to filter harmful microorganisms. This allows for a backyard pool that creates a healthy, sustainable environment and beautiful swimming area – but that’s not its only benefit.

One of the biggest draws of a natural pool is maintenance, which is almost zero due to natural pool filtration systems. The filtration system allows the owner to forgo most of the maintenance required of a traditional pool, including chemical filtration and pH balancing. The only real maintenance you’ll likely need to consider is that of a yearly cleaning and the occasional surface skimming. 

There are two sections to a natural pool that work together to keep the environment clean:

  • The main pool
  • The filter pool

The main pool is the deepest of the two pools, usually built using cement or another liner. The filtered pool is not nearly as deep and is filled with water plants such as cattails and water lilies. A water pump moves water from the main pool to the filtration pool.

By using natural elements such as plants, dirt, and gravel, the impurities are filtered out naturally. This means that algae won’t form and bacteria won’t rise, protecting the environment and animals around you.

Environmental benefits of a natural pool

Natural pool

Fewer chemicals

Chemicals for pools can cause irreparable damage to the environment, especially those in a traditional pool. But a natural pool does not have the harmful chemicals found in traditional pools. 

Because of this, a natural pool not only helps to preserve the environment but actually creates an additional habitat for desirable native species of plants and animals.

Fewer chemicals also mean less money. By not having to constantly buy more chemicals, you’ll be able to save money that you can invest in your natural pool/water features. Plus, if you aren’t buying the nasty chemicals that harm the environment, you are doing your part to decrease demand for those products.

Less electricity

By comparison, the pumps used to circulate water in a natural swimming pool typically require less electricity to operate than a chemically treated pool, so by transitioning to a natural pool, the water feature can stay clean and clear while consuming far less energy and avoiding harsh chemicals leaking into the environment.

For many, the idea of a natural pool isn’t even on their radar. But, equipped with the knowledge of a natural water pool and the environmental benefits, what’s keeping you from taking the plunge into a natural pool?

At Reflections Water Gardens, our experience and desire to complete the visions of our clients are what sets us apart. Whether you’re ready to dive headfirst into a natural pond installation or just want to dip a toe in, we are here for you. To find out more about our company and the services we offer, please visit us at reflectionswatergardens.com or give us a call at 815-701-9478.

founder

Author

Larry Carnes

Owner of Reflections Water Gardens

(815) 955-4911