In a world filled with so many manmade products, it’s refreshing to see alternatives to some of our favourite things harnessing the beauty and power of nature.
Natural pools, for instance, are stunning creations that use plant life, rocks, and various biological filters in place of cleansing chemicals to keep pools clean and therefore safe (and inviting, too).
Such pools have existed in Europe for decades, with the first ones being introduced in Austria and Germany in the 1980s. Today, there are 20,000 natural pools in Europe, with many offered to the general public. Such an invention serves as a wonderful reminder that toxic chemicals are not the only way to enjoy swimming in a pool comfortably.
But you won’t find it easy to come across a naturally-filtered pool in the U.S. Having a pool built from the ground up in your own backyard is a prohibitively expensive luxury to begin with, and few homes come with natural pools already built in.
As for public pools, many strict, state-mandated rules regulate the use of chemicals to control bacteria, making implementing natural pools almost impossible. As a result, the majority of us have become used to associating pools with a pale blue color. But that’s far from natural.
The trouble is, most public pools are using levels of chlorine that are extreme and harmful to human health over long periods of exposure. Chlorine, dries the skin, increases cancer risk and is toxic to humans, especially when we shower in it.
“The Chlorine problem is similar to that of air pollution, chlorine is the greatest crippler and killer of modern times!” –Dr. Robert Carlson, Researcher at University of Minnesota
But after months of delays, the Webber Park Natural Swimming Pool in Minneapolis, Minnesota, it finally opened in July of 2015. The green, chlorine-free waters offer swimmers a chance to enjoy a toxic-free experience while sharing a pool with creatures like frogs and turtles.
The pool requires no chemicals to clean the 500,00 gallons of water, using a natural filtration system instead. The pool is filtered every 12 hours, when water drains out of it and into an adjacent “regeneration basin,” where layers of gravel, along with 7,000 aquatic plants, clean the water, which is then pumped back into the pool. To keep the surface of the pool clean, vacuum cleaners suck off any debris.
Because of the monitoring of the water management system, however, the pool can only remain open three days a week for now, according to the website of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.
The project of the Webber natural pool was certainly no easy feat. Not only did it take four years and numerous legal battles and construction delays to complete, but it required a whopping $6 million of funding, too — far above the $4 million estimate.
Despite the unexpected costs and setbacks, the naturally-filtered swimming pool has an incredible environmental advantage: It doesn’t release gallons of chemically-treated water.
Furthermore, the lack of chlorine ensures swimmers don’t suffer the red, bloodshot eyes common to public swimming pools, which is the reaction between chlorine and urine when people pee in the pool. Every year, an estimated 4,000-5,000 emergency room visits in relation to pool chemicals occur.
“We have a responsibility to be good stewards of public land and public water. It’s consistent with our mission,” noted Jayne Miller, who serves as Superintendent of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board.
Opening weekend drew 2,300 people. A city park official in the city, Jon Olson said about the choice to build a natural pool. “We don’t really have a lake up this way, and there’s lakes all over the place, so we created a lake in an area that didn’t have one.”
Collective Evolution is currently building a natural pool on it’s retreat centre north of Toronto called Luminous. More updates and details on this to come soon!