Natural Swimming Pools

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by 9anda1f, Oct 22, 2014.

  1. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    I really want to build one of these. Our hot, dry summers beg for a place to swim ... gotta get this to position 1 on my list for next year!

    https://permaculturenews.org/2014/1...olistic-education-increased-diversity-health/
     
  2. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    i really enjoyed the end results, but wow the infrastructure and expense of some of those looked huge...
     
  3. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    It might be a good idea to research one of these ponds (because that's really what they are) and see how they behave in the long run. As an owner of a good sized pond that is about 80 meters on a side when full, "natural" means that every single insect, water creature, turtle, snake, frog, bird (big and small) predatory mammals, rodent....well, you get the idea....moves in Everybody and everything loves a watering hole. Those rather innocent looking pussy willows in that photo are some of the most stubborn, thick growing, plants that house some insects that would do Star Wars proud. There are leaches and rather good sized swimming lizards (I assume they are salamanders of some sort), the water is full of all of these creatures' poop, algae, and the acidic breaking down of whatever plant material blows into it, and that can be quite a bit, like pine needles, tree leaves, weed seeds, etc.

    But because it is such a great natural ecosystem, it requires all these creatures to keep it running as a natural place. Although there are the potential for great amounts of mosquitoes in still water, I've never in 20 years gotten a mosquito bite because of the balance of creatures in it.

    We have always had to dedicate a month when the water is lowest to maintenance of plants, and all the floating water plants that the ducks and birds bring in that land on it. Now that we are in a major drought and the water has dropped more than it has in 10 years we have had to spend 1 day a week for the last 10 weeks clearing bushes, roots, thick stands of pussy willows. When we've had too much rain, I've had to be out there in rain gear with 5 pounds of clay mud on each boot and shovel making sure it doesn't overflow and create erosion.

    I love my pond dearly, but it's for floating on, picnicking next to, admiring all the creatures that come to hang out around it. Never swimming. I don't see how any small system could keep the water so clean that you wouldn't be concerned for swimmers. Plus the bottom is so mucky you sink into it and couldn't be running in and out of it. A natural watering hole has to have a special kind of clay soil in it to keep the water from sinking out the bottom, and it's not stable when saturated, like a sandy beach or a rocky stream bed.

    But if people have done this, and don't feel like it's a ton of work, and it holds up well in flooding rains, then that would be extremely impressive :)
     
  4. Terra

    Terra Moderator

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    This is where the Aquaponic principles can be of use , conversion of any ammonia from any source in the pond to nitrate which the plants gobble up . So a sloped bottom to a sump hole with a pump (solar powered of course) which pumps to a large gravel bed which dumps into a finer gravel bed then a course sand bed and finally returning to the pond in these beds you could grow whatever you like , reeds or useful veg plants please yourself . Set up right the pool would stay pretty clean lots of examples of pool conversions in the aquaponic world if you go looking .
     
  5. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Well, is there ever a free ride with a pool or a pond? I mean, really? :)

    Filtering water happens in many ways, but it doesn't stop Mother Nature's creatures from moving in. All of the aquaponic systems I've seen are for growing edible crops in, so the water is teaming with fish and fish poop (i.e.nitrogen, etc.), so I don't think that has an eye towards swimming in it. That kind of filtering is just for keeping the fish alive or trying to keep gray water from getting into the ground water.

    Any water feature is a serious commitment, Aquatic plants are a lot of work. gravel beds fill up with algae, especially the sandy ones, quite quickly. In the summer months it can be a monthly job to clean that gravel and sand. Pumps, if they are running 24/7 they cost a lot, and they don't last that long. If it freezes all the pipes/pumps/connections need insulation. I am on my third field pump, heavy duty equipment that doesn't run 24/7 and they need maintenance, a power source, pipes that need repairing because of expansion and contraction, they drip, they leak.

    I just think it's important to be realistic. :)

    Maybe a first attempt at how often such a thing might actually be used would be to try an above-ground temporary pool, see if it's used only in the summer, then what happens to it in the winter as far as critters, freezing, maintenance, neighbor kids wandering into it when you're not around, small children toddling into it.

    Oh, and I should mention, our insurance added on a whole chunk with regard to the pond. It has to have a certain number of life jackets, rope, signs around it. A lot of pools these days must have sturdy fences completely around them so no little kids fall in.
     
  6. Terra

    Terra Moderator

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    Yes a full bore AP system is not a swimming hole , the principles for filtering and cleaning in AP are based on what happens in a natural stream with plants rocks and ponds .Of course humans push this to the limit to get "Production" . Believe it or not you could set up a 5 thousand litre system tip 1 litre of seaweed extract in it and grow leafy plants hardly a poop filled mess . The algae isn't a problem in gravel beds as the top couple of inches stay dry , sounds like your pond is a bit big for this purpose so not really a good example . When I said about pool conversions in the AP world I meant as swimming holes not AP systems as the primary focus , people convert their swimming pools to feature in the yard with a few fish plants ect with grow bed filtration . Now many people would go yuck yuck im not swimming in that and that's ok , I don't think people that put their fingers in chicken and cow poo would worry to much if they were in control of the pond . Floating on a pond is not far from falling in. :p
     
  7. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Terra, you kind of sound upset about this. I don't mean to be argumentative. I thought we got to put our experience here, and try to give a perspective that helps anyone who might still want to try it, things to look out for.

    I am not trying to debate AP systems. It doesn't take a full-bore AP system to have bacteria in the water. I thought 9anda1f wanted clean water for swimming like the picture showed.

    I think it's very misleading to imply that if you throw a few cattails around and filter the water through gravel and return it , it's completely safe water, and Nature is going to clean it for you, that it is somehow effortless and you can just sit back and enjoy it. It would take a serious commitment of time, equipment and energy many times a year to keep water in a natural pond clean enough to swim in, and keep the critters out, which honestly, I have no idea how that is possible.

    Even Permaculture design includes adding a water feature in order to bring in critters, in order to create an environment that works as an ecosystem of all kinds of plants/animals/insects. in order to bring them all together so they work as a team for a healthy environment for plants and for critters. Not for us.

    Even Permaculture says to remove bacteria from water it needs to be fast moving and have bubbling oxygen introduced into it, like the Flow Form design.

    I have a big farm, I've shoveled plenty of poop, raw poop, and I have large containers of compost tea and plenty of compost, and despite how used to that I may be, there's no way I would swim in my pond.

    The water has enough bacteria and poop in it to not be safe. We don't handle manure, composted manure and compost and then not wash our hands and go eat and apple, do we? We don't clean up chicken poop and then have lunch with dirty hands? We don't scratch our eyes, nose or mouth with that stuff on our hands while we're in the middle of shoveling it, do we? We don't go inside with boots on from mucking out stalls and track it around the house? So why would bacteria floating in small pools of water not count?

    Shallow bodies of water, like these little swimming holes, heat up quickly and bacteria can multiply on it's own, just like leaving something out on the sink.

    My cousin, who has raised chickens for years and years, just got a bacterial infection from the poop, ended up at the doctor's office in serious pain. She was on antibiotics for several weeks. Once they found out what it was, suddenly there was a County Health worker at her door, unannounced, wanting to inspect her house, her yard, and find out why and where she had gotten the infection. So even if we've done something for years, are knowledgeable about it, we are still just humans, we are not immune to bacteria.

    The only lakes/ponds I've used for swimming have been really big, with large streams going in one end and out the other, with so much water that it's diluted, with so much water movement that the contents get completely REPLACED, not filtered, many times a year, and they are 3-4 times the size of mine.

    By "floating on" I meant in a row boat, not floating on my back. And those kids aren't going to pee in that water? ;)
     
  8. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    It does seem like a balance needs to be struck in the pond. Terra's points about similarities to an AP bio-filter system are well taken, as is Sweetpea's real-world experience.
    To get the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate conversion process started in an AP system requires an initial "start-up" period. In a "natural pond" system I would imagine that there needs to be something similar, especially as there are so many more variables.
    I've read of natural pond systems that rely on simple water agitation to move water through the bio-filtration perimeter, but as Sweetpea mentions, an active oxygen bubbler coupled with a solar powered pump to ensure water flow through the bio-filter would most likely be a big improvement. The size of the bio-filter and diversity of water plants also need to be considered for the volume of water in the actual pond. I think the idea of these that really appeals to me is that of creating a system that mimics a lake ... I'd much rather swim in a lake than a chemical laden conventional swimming pool!
     
  9. Terra

    Terra Moderator

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    The discussion is about a natural swimming hole not a Wetland or a lake or a Dam or a AP system we are here to explore the swimming hole concept .

    I have access to all of these and don't swim in any of them , I swim in the sea sometimes but that's getting too dangerous with numbers of pointers around these days .

    Back on topic

    Vertical changeover in the water would be important as low oxygen water is heavier that highly oxygenated water , so it follows that "dead" zones and anaerobic bacteria could follow in still ponds , not good .

    In the pictures there were vertical pipes with bubblers in them these are simple air lifts which draw water from deep layers and deposit at the surface mixed with air in the process these are unlikely to harm small fish frogs ect as they just take a ride on the bubbles .
     
  10. Mudman

    Mudman Junior Member

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    I have been researching natural pools for many years now and are keen to build one in Brisbane.
    The thing I have discovered is that as they have become more popular they are becoming more technologically advanced. I have visited the Bio-top company in Vienna and it is all very impressive, they have even managed to create a system where no plants are required.
    The main market has been Europe and they are common place over there. As with all things in this world they start very simply and as time goes by we keep improving things and eventually you have a tour de force which is so far away from the beginnings you wonder why you bothered. Look at things like cars, they were simple contraptions to get you from A - B and now 120 years later they still do only quicker and more resource hungry. After all they still have 4 wheels an engine, brakes and some seats.
    I have recently come across this system from the UK which seems to have tried to retain the simplicity of the original systems https://www.organicpools.co.uk/
    He uses a bubble system similar to an aquarium and keeps away from traditional pool filters.
    Oh and fish are one of the biggest no-no's for these systems as they produce too many nutrients.
    Cheers
    Kurt
     
  11. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Here's Debbie Downer's input again :) We got a windmill with an air pump on it, the line goes down to a large bubbler at the bottom of the pond. We were hoping to clean up the water without much equipment and there's no power source near it. The wind rarely stops blowing here, so it's bubbling most of the time.....it didn't touch how the water looked. In fact, I think it actually made the duckweed and plants the birds brought in grow faster. But in a storm the birds that are there during the day are so thrilled to float on the wild, continuous bubbles coming up from the bottom, they are really cute to watch.

    I know we're discussing the swimming hole concept, but it's still a soil-based, plant-based, recirculating water feature. If it worked so well, like the article implies, why isn't everyone doing it? Why even bother with cement or above-ground swimming pools and chlorine and pumps and filters and scooping the top, and surrounding it with a hard, clean, safe surface? Wouldn't everyone love an effortless pool?

    I suppose it's doable, it's just a real commitment and a lot of work.

    And on the upside, floating in a rowboat on a pond is one of the most wonderful ways to spend an afternoon. It has never ceased to be magical in the 20 years I've been able to do it. Putting cushions in the bottom of a row boat, stretching out, loading it with books and snacks and things to drink, and just letting the breezes and current float you here and there, and slowly spin you, it is a reliable pleasure, and I'll do whatever work it takes to keep that possible. :)
     
  12. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Another upside to a natural pond for critters is the amazing compost "tea" that it makes. Since I've been pumping this pond water out to water my orchard and berries and field, they have all responded in extremely verdant ways they never did to plain spring water....duh....but it's a free and wonderful rich source of nutrients for the plants. :)
     
  13. Mudman

    Mudman Junior Member

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    Sweat Pea,
    The same reason people have lawn all through their yards and live in houses that are slowly poisoning them
    They don't know any better and are too conservative to try anything new.
    Its amazing how many people are blown away by our strawbale house when they see it but not one would be willing to take a risk to actually live in one.

    Not sure if the guys solution would work 100% but at least he is giving it a go and trying to create something that is low tech and good for the earth. If it doesn't you end up wit ha great frog pond
    In Europe natural pools are huge and have become mainstream, but Europe is generally at least 20 years ahead of us in OZ when it comes to things like that, you know environmental stuff that doesn't destroy the earth.
     
  14. sweetpea

    sweetpea Junior Member

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    Mudman, when you say, "In Europe natural pools are huge and have become mainstream," what do you mean? Where are the official statistics? what's mainstream? 75% of the people with pools have natural pools? And what defines a natural pool? On page one of this thread someone is claiming a natural pool has no plants, and that's not a natural pool.

    The link in the person's post who started this implies that it's ALMOST EFFORTLESS. That's the only point I am disagreeing with. I'm not saying don't have one. I'm not saying they don't work. If that link that started this discussion said anything reasonable about the amount of work/money/commitment and biological knowledge to maintain one, I wouldn't even have gotten into this discussion.

    I'm sure folks here have ponds, I'm sure they have just as much knowledge about them as I do, and I don't see one of them coming in here and saying, "Oh, yeah, I have reeds and a little water in a hole in the ground and I don't have any biological issues at all. The water is as clear as the day I put it in there with a hose." Where are the people with all these successful natural swimming ponds who say it's way less work than a cement pool?
     

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