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how to build a natural swimming pond?

 
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Help needed...
We are building a natural swimming pond in our garden an we want to avoid using concrete or any unfriendly whit nature materials, any ideas?
 
pollinator
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Andreea,
If you don't want to use ferro-cement or the various pond liners such as EDPM, PVC or RPE (Reinforced Polyethylene) -- and I don't blame you, since those plastics are not really safe and they are very expensive -- then your only really good choice is clay -- specifically Bentonite clay. That is pretty much what everyone used to use before the fancy plastic choices hit the market anyway, and for the long run it holds up a lot better. The really nice thing about clay is that you can plant in it directly and don't need to create special pockets of soil or put plants in pots. The bad side is that it can be quite expensive and if you don't happen to live in an area where clay is "mined" it will cost a bundle to ship it to you. If you're lucky, you may have clay of one sort or another already on your property. You could try digging a hole somewhere in the area you want the pool to see if it hits clay and whether the clay holds water well enough to depend upon it for keeping the pool full, but chances are you'll need to buy it.

One other possibility, although I don't know how practical it would be (just a thought) is to dig out a hole and then line it with a pool built out of wood -- like a giant barrel or hot tub. Actually, you might even try using logs and chinking them with clay to save money. You could possibly even put a coating of clay over the surface of the logs instead of using clay alone so you wouldn't need to buy so much. Like I said, this is just an idea I sort of came up with spontaneously, I don't know if it is at all feasible. It would likely work best if you kept the sides to a pretty decent slope instead of vertical, to avoid having it collapse.

Meanwhile, here are some really inspirational articles and photos to keep you positive. I've drooled over many of these myself because we also intend to build a natural pool someday. (Right now we are busy doing the same for our ducks. They come first, but someday ... )

http://www.ecohome.net/guide/natural-ponds-natural-swimming-pools
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-3614956/Man-Britain-s-DIY-natural-swimming-pool-inspires-hundreds-build-own.html
http://www.motherearthnews.com/diy/natural-swimming-pool-zmaz02aszgoe
http://www.grit.com/tools/build-your-own-natural-swimming-hole?
https://www.pinterest.com/explore/natural-swimming-pools/?lp=true

Oops! Forgot this one ...
http://www.decoist.com/2014-07-09/natural-swimming-pools/
 
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Bentonite  (a clay) bottom and layering up the sides.. Unless your soil won't pass a perk test. (you dig a hole a certain size and so-deep and fill it with water and come back in  20 minutes to see how much drained/seeped/'perked' away. I happen to have adobe clay that will flunk a perk test.) If you have to go bentonite it's at least 4" thick. More in high traffic (cattle accessable end of a dugout).
 
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There was this great TV show on one of the home improvement networks of this old dude who built these natural luxury pools for people.  The water would pump up from the pool to the "headwaters" upslope from the pool, and then would trickle down through a river of various plants before finding its way back to the pool.  As it moved along through the "creek", those plants would filter out the bad stuff and keep the water clear.  He created a natural eco-system to keep the water clean and constantly being filtered.

I watched a half-dozen episodes of the show.  I was never interested in the decorative stuff he was doing to wow the home-owners (fire pits and seating areas, etc.), but was interested in the system he created to balance the biology and keep things in check so the water didn't turn into a festering scummy lagoon.  What plants did he use?  How large was the pump and how much water flow do you need to make it biologically work?  Do you put fish into it, and if so, are they an important part of the system?

I wish I could remember the name of that show.  You could probably find it on Netflix or Youtube.
 
Deb Stephens
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Marco Banks wrote:There was this great TV show on one of the home improvement networks of this old dude who built these natural luxury pools for people.  The water would pump up from the pool to the "headwaters" upslope from the pool, and then would trickle down through a river of various plants before finding its way back to the pool.  As it moved along through the "creek", those plants would filter out the bad stuff and keep the water clear.  He created a natural eco-system to keep the water clean and constantly being filtered.

I watched a half-dozen episodes of the show.  I was never interested in the decorative stuff he was doing to wow the home-owners (fire pits and seating areas, etc.), but was interested in the system he created to balance the biology and keep things in check so the water didn't turn into a festering scummy lagoon.  What plants did he use?  How large was the pump and how much water flow do you need to make it biologically work?  Do you put fish into it, and if so, are they an important part of the system?

I wish I could remember the name of that show.  You could probably find it on Netflix or Youtube.



Marco, I hope you can remember the name of the show. I'd like to watch it because that is what we're working on for our duck pond -- sort of a gray-water system from poopy duck pond (they are unbelievably nasty with their water) to clean, clear frog pond at the other end. We want to recycle as much of the water as we can by pumping the overflow back up to the ducks, but still leave enough in the stream and frog pond for wildlife to use too.
 
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David Pagan Butler was here in 2013 talking about his DVD and such that tells you how to make a natural swimming pool.  He also has a YouTube channel and a FaceBook page.

He's got a great design using air bubbles to move water, like the aquariums of old.  Quiet and very low power requirements, but you've got to move water or things will get anaerobic and then stinky.
 
steward
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David Pagan Butler, author of the Natural Swimming Pools, has some awesome videos about how he designs and builds swimming pools:





And apvsculpture also made a good video about a natural pool installation:



A pool made without a liner:

 
steward
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Paul talked a bit about David Pagan Butler's work in his new video on youtube:

 
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I think the show was called Poolmasters. There were a few other interesting ones called Aquascape Pond Squad, and Insane Pools Off the Deep End that are fun to watch and get creative ideas from (but not as a tutorial on building sustainable pools). I love following David Pagan Butlers work. So much good info for the sustainable swimming ponds/pools, best I've seen on the subject.

I just cut ground two months ago on my own natural swimming pond based on David's work. When I'm finished with that I intend on building a smaller natural fish pond to raise tilapia in.

~M.Z.
20221020_104149.jpg
moving earth for swimming pond
 
steward
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Here is the link to the "Organic Pools DIY Manual - by David Pagan Butler" that was mentioned above:

https://permies.com/t/97010/Organic-Pools-DIY-Manual-David

how to build a natural swimming pond

Chemical free
 
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This one seems functional, I don't know that I love the tanks used, but it looks lovely if a bit Minecraft :D
 
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We recently had the opportunity to get a big backhoe in to dredge out our (man-made, 15-year-old) swimmin' hole and re-do the interface with the original stream. Fished some nice flat rocks out for diving and sunning platforms, too.

IMG_3059.jpg
Gramma Jesse is amazed
Gramma Jesse is amazed
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Whoa does grampa know his perspective shots
Whoa does grampa know his perspective shots
 
pollinator
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I wonder if this concept could be combined with some kind of pump system...someday I'd like to build a treadmill pool, but if it could also be "natural" that would be ideal. But I'm not sure if it's possible...
 
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We have done some research on enzyme soil stabilization.  The product we have done soil tests with is Permazym.  It is promising for Earth and life friendly pond lining and road stabilization.
 
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I wonder if anyone can help me I live in the UK I already have a swimming pool, but would dearly love to convert it to a natural swimming pool. Is there information on doing this I wonder? It is a 40 x 15 ft rectangular pool with steps at one end that leads in (planting area??) There is a gradient on the base leading to a central depth of 8 ft 4 ins deep at the centre It has a skimmer and a filtraton system (sand) It is a concrete structure. When its been cleaned, usually once a year we get quite a lot of flaking paint, but just invested in a better jetwasher so could get the rest off Im pretty sure.Thanks in advance PS I can provide photos if it will make this question easier
 
Anne Miller
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Hi Carol maybe this will help:

This video by David Pagan Butler, who is the author of Natural Swimming Pools will help explain the process:

https://permies.com/t/55998/Natural-Swimming-pools-David-Pagan

A step by step transformation of a conventional outdoor pool into an Organic Pool. This was a completed by the owners and friends with the intermittent help of David Pagan Butler. The pool has a relatively small planted zone so an Olive Bioflter (invented by David Pagan Butler), provides additional water cleansing





 
Carol Morgan
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Thanks Anne

I watched this and its quite fascinating!

However the pool is still very green after converting to an organic pool

Is this a feature? Ive seen another video here where the pool becomes clean and blue after construction

Anne Miller wrote:Hi Carol maybe this will help:

This video by David Pagan Butler, who is the author of Natural Swimming Pools will help explain the process:

https://permies.com/t/55998/Natural-Swimming-pools-David-Pagan

A step by step transformation of a conventional outdoor pool into an Organic Pool. This was a completed by the owners and friends with the intermittent help of David Pagan Butler. The pool has a relatively small planted zone so an Olive Bioflter (invented by David Pagan Butler), provides additional water cleansing





 
Anne Miller
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The color of the water might be dependent on several things.

The two biggest being the filter system and the plants used to filter the water as in the video of the clear pool in the above video someone posted.

This post has an example of a filter system that might produce very clean water:

https://permies.com/t/154921/Small-Cheap-Indoor-Natural-Pool#1237317

Then maybe what kind of pool pump is used to aerate the water.

Clean water is clear so what methods are used to keep the water clear is the determining factor.

I have not watched the above video that someone posted with clear water.
 
Cat Knight
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Carol Morgan wrote:I wonder if anyone can help me I live in the UK I already have a swimming pool, but would dearly love to convert it to a natural swimming pool. Is there information on doing this I wonder? It is a 40 x 15 ft rectangular pool with steps at one end that leads in (planting area??) There is a gradient on the base leading to a central depth of 8 ft 4 ins deep at the centre It has a skimmer and a filtraton system (sand) It is a concrete structure. When its been cleaned, usually once a year we get quite a lot of flaking paint, but just invested in a better jetwasher so could get the rest off Im pretty sure.Thanks in advance PS I can provide photos if it will make this question easier



I was looking for this...the shop on this site offers the full movie and manual movie and manual by David Pagan Butler  (click the blue words) I haven't purchased it yet myself, but I have read a sample chapter or two and I believe there was a section on conversions. I'm not sure if there are free or conversion specific resources available.
 
pollinator
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I dug a large borrow pit because fill was needed for a shop/barn building. So I decided to try to naturscape the pit as a natural swimming pond. Stacking functions. It has very steep sides like a swimming pool and shallow areas on each side for gravel filter medium. I dont think it would ever seal even if benyonite clay is added so epdm rubber might be the only option? It would need to be fenced to keep free range cows out also. The pond will also stack functions as water source in case of wildfire, habitat, emergency water supply.
 
Jeremy Baker
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Bumping the thread again. Is anyone working on a natural swimming pond. I dug a pit and am designing the pond while I save up cash for more progress. I’m wondering about burying geothermal heat loop pipes under the pond but not sure if it will work well. Any thoughts or ideas. Thanks
 
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