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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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Location: SW Missouri, Zone 7a
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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/
 
gardener
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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).
 
gardener
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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
pollinator
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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.
 
steward
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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:

 
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