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Thread: Natural Pools discussion

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    pinguy's Avatar
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    Natural Pools discussion

    Split from Can I power wash my filled pool? Zea3

    sorry I can't really answer your question, but I had no idea natural pools were a thing!

    Natural pool - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    I actually think that's pretty cool, and I wish we could discuss it around here without people getting upset.
    Last edited by zea3; 08-20-2016 at 11:07 AM. Reason: split side conversation to the deep end
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    Re: Can I power wash my filled pool?

    I'm trying to figure out when water quit being considered a chemical.
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    Re: Can I power wash my filled pool?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Bruce View Post
    I'm trying to figure out when water quit being considered a chemical.
    Did you know that 100% of those that consume dihydrogen monoxide die??

    Not even once.
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    Re: Can I power wash my filled pool?

    ^Lol.

    Pinguy, natural pools are a great topic for the deepend section, agree to disagree, or wastewater engineering forums They're just 100% not TFP, and you pretty much need to be a research biochemist or WQ engineer IMHO to configure one that would actually accurately or predictively preserve human health from threats like crypto or giardiasis. Individuals are free to assess their own risk-level and comfort zone in their own homes...but in the deep end or agree to disagree sections.

    It would be patently irresponsible for one of us TFP guides, knowing what we do about chemistry, human health, and protection from waterborne illness, to ever actually attempt to give advice or guidance on NPs. The variables simply cannot be reported and controlled remotely or accurately.

    Having witnessed a case of death by legionella over improperly sanitized recreational water, I for one could not even begin to ethically discuss NPs even though there was a time I was fairly involved/attuned to wastewater management practices that underpin the NP movement. Natural filtration can indeed be very effective if engineered correctly over very large swaths of land/pond with a consciousness of flow.

    So its not so much that we don't discuss it due to upset; its just that any discussion must not occur in guidance sections of TFP lest we ever inadvertently lead a newcomer to a miscalculation of potential lethality, IMHO.
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    Re: Can I power wash my filled pool?

    Quote Originally Posted by Swampwoman View Post
    ^Lol.

    Pinguy, natural pools are a great topic for the deepend section, agree to disagree, or wastewater engineering forums They're just 100% not TFP, and you pretty much need to be a research biochemist or WQ engineer IMHO to configure one that would actually accurately or predictively preserve human health from threats like crypto or giardiasis. Individuals are free to assess their own risk-level and comfort zone in their own homes...but in the deep end or agree to disagree sections.

    It would be patently irresponsible for one of us TFP guides, knowing what we do about chemistry, human health, and protection from waterborne illness, to ever actually attempt to give advice or guidance on NPs. The variables simply cannot be reported and controlled remotely or accurately.

    Having witnessed a case of death by legionella over improperly sanitized recreational water, I for one could not even begin to ethically discuss NPs even though there was a time I was fairly involved/attuned to wastewater management practices that underpin the NP movement. Natural filtration can indeed be very effective if engineered correctly over very large swaths of land/pond with a consciousness of flow.

    So its not so much that we don't discuss it due to upset; its just that any discussion must not occur in guidance sections of TFP lest we ever inadvertently lead a newcomer to a miscalculation of potential lethality, IMHO.
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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    Hello folks, first post here for me to add my experiences with 'natural pools' or 'swimming ponds'.

    I started building my 20 meter long x 3 meter/1.2 meter deep prototype natural pool at my home in Albury, Australia in 2006. It's been a long hard slog in that time to have only built five of these pools so far. I've always thought that if I had to advertise and sell them like a hamburger to get them 'out there', I wasn't interested.

    As far as health concerns go, neither my family or my customers have advised me of ill health from swimming in them.
    In January 2013 (mid summer) I asked my local council to come and take a water sample directly from my pool for testing. They sent the sample to a NATA accredited lab in Melbourne and the results were good. E.coli was mpn three (3) per 100 ml. pH 7.5, total coliforms 1600, total alkalinity 17 mg/l, turbidity 0.5 NTU
    Totally unsanitized and approved for swimming by my council. Probably a first for Australia.

    I have never added anything to the water. No U.V. either. Just a low speed pump that runs 24/7
    I use Firestone EPDM to line the pool and bio filter.
    The five pool systems I've built are my own design, all different, and I have built them myself with almost no help other than excavation.

    If the system is well designed, the water will be first class. If the system isn't well designed, and there will be plenty of them built around the world, they will range from not too bad, to unhealthy.
    Very few pool builders have taken up the challenge in Australia since I started, especially anyone with their own system design and I have learned that they just don't understand how they work.
    I started years ago working for a conventional pool builder in Melbourne, as well as much structural landscaping previously and since, then ponds and water gardens. All the skills picked up over the years are directly used in my natural pools.
    Each natural pool I build gets progressively better in system design and overall function and serviceability.

    I don't quite understand the other so called 'fresh water' pools available today that are apparently just like a mountain stream. Most mountain streams I know of are not biologically dead.
    A well designed natural pool will produce a swim quality closer to (as good as) said mountain streams.

    I might add, I don't have a problem with sanitized pools. Some people really need them.

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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    ME, when you construct this kind of pool for someone, how can they regularly test for biologics or waterborn issues sch as giardiasis, etc? For example, lets say a woodland animal contaminates the water (happens all the time in nature) and shortly thereafter someone swims and the system has not had time to naturally filter/digest the bacteria, particularly given the smal size of a typical system when compared to a watershed. And I've seen hunters/fishers sick after contracting illness in some watersheds, so im not saying a watershed necessarily trumps a natural pool in purification capability

    Are your customers fully apprised of the risks? Is there a reasonable inexpensive way they can monitor biologics and other parameters such as oxygenation etc.? Just curious. To my own mind, this is a high risk endeavor, but I don know what I don't know
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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    A watershed for a natural body of water typically represents hundreds or thousands of acres and many, many thousands of gallons of water continuously or regularly flushing out the water. A swimming pool is a closed loop body of water and will quickly turn into a swamp without nearly continuous human intervention.

    There is certainly ample opportunity for critters to poop in a pool. We have lots of animals around our pool and regularly find scat on the coping. Some I've seen are squirrels, rabbits, opossum, snakes, snails, lizards, frogs, toads, birds, dogs and cats. Fecal bacteria from these animals are certainly a risk of disease transmission to humans. But, the real risk is from other humans swimming in the pool. Person to person disease transmission is much more likely than animal to person disease transmission. With no sanitizer in the water there is nothing to kill the pathogens that can cause illness in the other people swimming. Person to person disease transmission rates in water can be as high as 100% and with no sanitizer in the water bacterial colonies can double every 20 minutes. Your test results confirm that there is fecal bacteria in the water.
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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    I consider an NSP, and the effort needed to care for one, similar to that of a fish tank - a lot more complicated! With a "natural" body of water, one needs to measure and control for many chemical parameters that residential swimming pools don't need to - phosphate levels, nitrogen levels (nitrate/nitrite/ammonia), all the usual swimming pool parameters (pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness) as well as turbidity (NTUs), dissolved oxygen (DO) and bacterial levels (fecal coliform and other bacteria). All of this would be to ensure that the natural, biological filtration system is working correctly. If this is not properly monitored and maintained, then it would be exceedingly easy for a small body of water to become eutrophic and cause either a "red tide" or "green swamp" effect - essentially the unrestricted growth of harmful bacteria or algae.

    Now I recognize that the vast majority of NSPs (however many that is) probably don't go to that level of analysis in everyday application simply because it would be seen as overkill and unnecessarily complicated. But, for me and my family, knowing the health of the water and it's chemical balance is an absolutely necessary prerequisite before anyone is allowed to swim. Anything less than that and I would consider it negligence on my part as both a parent and a pool owner.
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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    Hi swampwoman, a water test could be done by anyone capable of performing such a test. That would be a specialist lab such as the NATA accredited lab used by my council, or a university perhaps. Testing would be quite expensive, depending on how many pathogens were tested for. The water test of my pool cost me approx $350! but that was also covering two council staff coming to my home. It would be cheaper for me to send the water sample myself but it was important for me to have the council take the sample from my pool, themselves.
    I gave up testing non biological parameters in my pool a few years ago because nothing ever changes.
    I do make sure people understand that these pools are unsanitised, and that good personal hygiene practices are observed.
    Is it possible to contract an illness from a natural pool? Yes, of course. Is everyone's sanitized pool safe? No.

    Satisfactory oxygenation levels are achieved through system design, which in my designs is through overflow edges and the water's contact with atmosphere. No other aeration devices are employed.

    I don't drink from mountain streams any more, which I frequent due to my trout fishing and motorcycling adventures. But I will drink from my pool. The difference between my pool and a stream is that my pool has no surface water runoff entering the system.
    I smell the water to partly judge it's quality, almost sniffing it up my nose. I do this in the mountain streams as well to compare, and have become a professional water sniffer, lol.

    It seems far more difficult generally, to keep water biologically dead than to keep it alive. With a natural pool, the same rules apply as for a sanitized pool. No sick people should swim.

    This coming summer is number 11 for my pool. No one in my family has ever fallen sick or presented a skin, eye or ear infection in this time. My town sees temperatures into the low 40's in summer with plenty of high thirties. My pool performs very well through summer and I'll even say it performs best through summer, it reaches a maximum of 31c every summer. I even have three fish in my pool (was that a scream I heard, lol) One of the fish is a Japanese koi that has been there for the life of my pool.

    Natural pools are not for everyone. Many people wish to have as little to do with the running of their swimming pool as possible and are not a candidate.
    Natural pools are a living thing kept alive by by a life support machine, the pump.

    My pool water is as clear as any conventional pool, other than the top end filtration systems, and has never turned green. String algae is present and seasonally flourishes. But instead of seeing it as a negative, I see it as a benefit to rapidly respond to nutrient level/availability changes. Algae also 'catches' fine particles moving through the system. When I vacuum, I remove the algae with it's taken up nutrients and particles. I have no vacuum to waste or filter backwash function.
    I use about 100 litres of water to service/clean my fine filtration with a small pressure washer. The frequency of maintenance varies throughout the year with spring being the busiest. Autumn/fall can see no maintenace for 3-4 months.
    I use geofabric as part of my fine filtration and also use this 'fine filter' when vacuuming the pool.

    Natural pools are unlike a conventional pool in almost every respect.

    Disasters and dissatisfaction will definitely occur when some people build their own natural pool systems without fully understanding what needs to happen, and why it needs to happen. System blockages, over flows, structural failure, poor overall concept etc, etc.
    Green water is a fail!

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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by pooldv View Post
    A swimming pool is a closed loop body of water and will quickly turn into a swamp without nearly continuous human intervention.



    Your test results confirm that there is fecal bacteria in the water.
    My pool looks anything but a swamp. Never a mosquito. Never green. I vacuum and service the fine filtration a required. Yesterday for example, I spent the whole day doing a full service. But this is the 'busy' time of the year. And it's a big pool.

    Yes, tests confirmed there was fecal bacteria in my pool water. Three E.coli organisms per 100ml. From whose bum did it come?
    The EPA in the state of Victoria Australia state that an E.coli level below 200 organisms/100ml is safe for primary contact (for swimming) in the Yarra river.
    I had three organisms....

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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    Is it possible to contract an illness from a natural pool? Yes, of course. Is everyone's sanitized pool safe? No.
    Yes, everyone's sanitized pool is safe. If the FC level is above minimum for the CYA level, FC/CYA Chart, then there is sufficient chlorine to provide a fast enough kill rate to prevent person to person disease transmission in a swimming pool.


    It seems far more difficult generally, to keep water biologically dead than to keep it alive. With a natural pool, the same rules apply as for a sanitized pool. No sick people should swim.
    It is much easier to kill everything in any biological system than it is to kill some things and keep other things alive. True for ponds, aquariums, lawns, gardens, flower beds, etc. There is no reason for a sick person not to swim in a pool sanitized with chlorine. And people don't always know if they are sick or contagious. And fecal bacteria has no early warning system.


    Many people wish to have as little to do with the running of their swimming pool as possible and are not a candidate.
    Agreed for all types of bodies of water kept by people. That is why TFP exists, to overcome that and help people care for their pools and spas.


    I agree that seasonal algae blooms in ponds is a natural occurrence and should not be fought. I never understood why pond keepers always tried to get rid of algae from their ponds.
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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by JoyfulNoise View Post
    I consider an NSP, and the effort needed to care for one, similar to that of a fish tank - a lot more complicated! With a "natural" body of water, one needs to measure and control for many chemical parameters that residential swimming pools don't need to - phosphate levels, nitrogen levels (nitrate/nitrite/ammonia), all the usual swimming pool parameters (pH, alkalinity, calcium hardness) as well as turbidity (NTUs), dissolved oxygen (DO) and bacterial levels (fecal coliform and other bacteria). All of this would be to ensure that the natural, biological filtration system is working correctly. If this is not properly monitored and maintained, then it would be exceedingly easy for a small body of water to become eutrophic and cause either a "red tide" or "green swamp" effect - essentially the unrestricted growth of harmful bacteria or algae.

    .
    I gave up measuring any of these parameters because they didn't change. No ammonia, no nitrite, no nitrate. Dissolved oxygen satisfactory. Phosphate very low.
    Total hardness 21 ppm, total alkalinity 17 ppm, basically never changes due to 15 tonnes of gravel in the bio filter.
    As my system is constantly circulating, there is never a red tide or green swamp.
    I don't do anything to the water. I have never added anything to the water to influence water chemistry.
    Brushing, vacuuming and cleaning the fine filter is all I do.
    Water clarity is most always excellent. Every spring I can see the slightest hint of green. Every summer the water is very clear.

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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by pooldv View Post
    Yes, everyone's sanitized pool is safe. If ............

    That's why I answered "no" to my question "is everyone's sanitized pool safe?"

    Worthwhile my saying again that I have no problems with sanitized pools. I don't buy into the 'chlorine is dangerous' argument.
    I don't use 'chlorine is dangerous' as any part of my reasoning when showing my pool to interested people.
    I'm a licensed pool builder since 2004 but don't really have an interest in building conventional pools. Been there, done that. Natural pools are much more fun to build.

    I don't promote my pool as an alternative to chemicals. I promote them as something completely different to a conventional pool.
    They are a habitat. I get tadpoles growing in my fine filter. I grow native plants as well as non indigenous plants in my bio filter pool.
    Dragonflies in their aquatic stage live in the bio filter. Native birds and insects drink from the bio filter.
    I drink water from my rain water tanks too. No one in my family gets sick, or suffers from colds and flu.

    It is not my intention to change anyone's opinion on sanitization, rather to inform them of what a well built, and not so well built natural pool is.

    All five of my natural pools are engineer approved construction as well as construction certificates granted from various councils. (local government)
    These pools are most definitely classed as swimming pools and must comply with all swimming pool regulations including safety fencing.

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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    We just feel a duty to point out the increased risk of swimming in unsanitized water. Lots of people have been swimming in farm ponds for centuries with no pump or filter at all. If you don't mind sharing with a snake or two.
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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by pooldv View Post
    We just feel a duty to point out the increased risk of swimming in unsanitized water.
    Agreed with completely, and thanks for the opportunity to share some information.

    What brought me to TFP was searching for information re Enviroswim and the likes, in an effort to find an alternative to chlorine for someone with skin sensitivities.
    They are keen on a pool conversion to a natural pool, but the cost would be significantly more than fitting Enviroswim etc, which still might not cut it as suitable for them.

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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    Chlorine, kept balanced using TFP methods, has proven to be helpful for those with 'sensitivity'.
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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    ME, I've had eczema my entire life UNTIL 5 years ago when I bought a home with a pool, used TFP ratio of FC/CYA Chart and added 50 ppm of borates.

    I am not sure why or whether other environmental factors contributed, but after my first season, my dishydrotic eczema resolved completely.

    Chlorine baths and boric acid treatments are not uncommon for people with skin sensitivities, so I kind of deducted that this combo is what has helped.

    I also want to note that if your client feels they react to chlorine, using cheap vitamin C cream is said to neutralize chlorine on the skin. But I suspect any sensitivity is more likely related to chloramines, not chlorine, and proper maintenance to TFP specs (eg 7.5% of CYA) will avoid having chloramines buildup. Just wanted to give you some food for thought/experimentation.

    Btw, before finding TFP and prior to pool ownership, I did run a hottub using the "alternative" mineral sanitizer system and would never do so again. The proof is in my skin
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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    Thanks Swampwoman, I've not inquired into the specific nature of the persons sensitivity to chlorine and can't remember if eczema was mentioned when we first communicated a few months ago. I'll certainly mention your experiences to them.

    Their pool itself is another issue. It's quite a nice pool but is not functioning properly at the moment due to pump issues. When I first saw the pool a few months ago I didn't do a thorough assessment of the filtration infrastructure because I was assessing the pool's potential for conversion to a natural pool, where basically all the existing filtration becomes redundant with my methods.
    This pool also has several trees planted down either side which will place a significant load on the pool, whichever system is in place. Blossom in spring, leaves in autumn and lawns.
    Plus it's surrounded by open fields. Basically, it gets a lot of junk in the water with only one skimmer box.
    The trees are established and very pretty, so I can't see them being removed.
    Lots of homework for me to do to make the pool function the best it can, all things considered.

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    Re: Natural Pools discussion

    ^My pool is is a "bowl" surrounded by a terrace, forest, etc. I'm posting an old pic of the kind of leaf drop I get right around closing time

    Just so you know, I have 1 skimmer and a 1 HP superpump...I only add a pool Skim Venturi to the opposite corner return, which helps a lot. I clean with a Dolphn robot (m4) and that's it, but using TFP guidelines, have no water chem issues....so its entirely do-able without much fuss, IMHO

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