Eco pools have been growing in popularity in recent years as homeowners and businesses look for a more natural alternative to chemical and salt chlorinated swimming pools. We spoke to Dr. Jerome Davis, Bioengineer and Director of EcoPools about how eco pools work, how to convert to an eco pool and the types of plants most commonly used in and around a natural eco pool system.
Going Green and Clean
The main difference between an eco pool and a chemical or salt chlorinated pool is how they are kept clean. A blue pool turning green is caused by the growth of algae in the water. Algae needs sunlight and nutrients to grow. Chemicals kill the algae to turn or keep the water blue. “…Blue death more like it… EcoPools are an alternative strategy that keep the water clean and healthy by using plants in an aquatic ecosystem to filter the nutrients out of the water that the algae need to feed on. The pools thus stay clean and free of algae without the use of chemicals.” Explained Jerome.
According to Jerome, properly built eco pools require minimal monthly maintenance as the plant ecosystem maintains the water quality and the main maintenance from owners is more gardening focused. “The plants need to be kept trimmed and healthy. If skimmers or leaf traps are installed, they need to be cleaned out regularly. The bottom and sides of the pool might need to be brushed down and debris vacuumed from time to time. And check for caterpillars in season – they can decimate some of the soft leaved plants in a week…There is no monthly maintenance cost besides time spent in the garden.” Said Jerome.
“Water plants of all kinds are used in eco pools. Restios, reeds, papyrus species, red hot pokers, arums, water lilies, aquatic grasses and many others. We recommend indigenous plants, but where special textures or colours are required, non-indigenous species can also be considered if they are not declared alien weeds.” Suggested Jerome.
Pros and Cons
The advantages of investing in an eco pool include: “exceptional water quality – so pure you can drink it; healthy swimming experience [in chemical-free water] – no red eyes or itchy skin; less electricity usage; minimal backwashing and thus waste of water – the little backwash water there is can be used in the garden; low maintenance and hassle; stable water quality; warmer water; all-year enjoyment of a beautiful natural feature; attracts wildlife and enhances the surrounding environment; reconnects us with nature and feeds our souls and a natural store of good quality water in times of drought.” Explained Jerome.
“The main potential disadvantage of eco pools is that if not properly designed or installed, they can go horribly wrong: perpetually green water, long strands of filamentous algae, slimy bottoms and sides, a lot of maintenance, dying plants, excessive electricity bills, over-design and spending, cracked shells and leaks, etc. Eco pools are generally more expensive to create as well. The pools don’t need to be that much more expensive – our modular ‘EcoSplash!’ range is a little cheaper than a fiberglass pool of the same size.” Said Jerome.
“If properly planned and executed the disadvantages are mainly perceptual: some people simply don’t like swimming in nature. They don’t like frogs or dragonflies or water snails, or mossy pool walls, or the sound of croaking at night or birds washing in the water. You know – nature…” Added Jerome.
Converting from a chemical or salt chlorinated pool to an eco pool is possible and there are a number of options to suit your needs and existing pool structure. “In order to convert a pool, one needs to establish a separate space for the planted ecosystem to be held where the plants and other elements of the ecosystem are kept away from the clean swimming zone.” Explained Jerome.
Jerome suggests the following options for converting to an eco pool:
“One can create the ‘EcoZone’ within the pool shell by building a dividing wall into the shell, or you can use our ‘EcoIsland’ floating wetland planters, which attach to the sides of the pool.”
“A separate ‘EcoZone’ can be built outside of the pool shell by using a Firestone Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer (EPDM) liner and pumps can be used to circulate the water between the pool and the ‘EcoZone’.”
The timing of a build should always be considered before going ahead. According to Jerome, it can take up to three months for a built conversion. Their ‘EcoIsland’ conversion, as mentioned above, takes less than a week to install. Their modular ‘EcoSplash!’ splash pool takes three days to install from “…hole dug to plants in.”
“…EcoPools are something very special. There is a wonderful relationship that starts to build between a family, or a hotel, and their EcoPools.” Concluded Jerome.
If you would like more information and guidance, visit the EcoPools website .