As these 30-plus photos demonstrate, a new kind of backyard oasis is growing in popularity worldwide: natural swimming pools, or NSPs.

You can think of these pools as Mother Nature, managed: no fish, no chlorine, no dirt, no algae… but plenty of clear water, along with some beneficial bacteria, frogs and harmless aquatic insects.

Read more below the gallery, and also see Dive into a natural swimming pool: A backyard oasis

Photo gallery: 32 eco-friendly natural swimming pools
The beginnings of the NSP movement

Biotop, the Austrian company that is credited with inventing the original natural swimming pools three decades ago, has since built thousands of pools with its partner companies around the world.

Peter Petrich, MD of Biotop says that worries about chlorine-treated pools were a driving force behind starting the business. “These concerns are one of the reasons we invented the natural pool 30 years ago, so that people can swim in crystal clear water entirely without chemicals and feel at one with nature, in the safety of their own gardens.”

The company looks back to history for proof-of-concept. “In the 1900s, prior to the industrial revolution when the first indoor public bathing pools were built, people of all ages would only ever swim in the natural waters of rivers, lakes and canals. This natural approach to swimming has started to see something of a renaissance in recent years with a growing desire by swimmers to experience the pleasures and health benefits of natural water.”

Petrich adds, “Whereas many customers originally wanted a natural pool with a planting regeneration zone, for the year-’round beauty they provide, we have seen increasingly more requests from customers who are very interested in the positive health benefits of natural water swimming.”

>> Find out more! Dive into a natural swimming pool: A backyard oasis

Do natural swimming pools cost more than traditional pools?

In general, yes, according to BioNova Natural Pools. “These pools cost about the same per square foot as a traditional chemical pool, but because these pools are larger they will tend to cost more, typically starting out in the high five figure range,” they say — and also note that their company recommends a natural swimming pool be at least 535 square feet. “Additionally, natural pools need to have the aquatic plants acquired and installed.”

The team at Total Habitat, an innovator in the US natural pool market, breaks down the cost in a little more detail. “A 50′ x 50′ natural swimming pool, with a 30′ x 30′ swimming area, dock and waterfall, complete with starter plants, generally runs $34,000 to $45,000, depending on access, soil type, etc,” they say. “For the materials alone, this same pond has $22,000 to $24,000 worth of pumps, liner, plumbing, wood, stainless steel screws, skimmers, waterfall parts, UV sterilizers, filter media stones, landscaping boulders, starter plants and electrical conduit, wire, GFI outlets, lights and timers. The rest of the cost is excavation, equipment rental and the labor to put it together.”

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“Ongoing operational costs are lower over the years as no chemicals are needed, and energy consumption is much lower than for a chemical pool,” BioNova adds, and reminds homeowners weighing the costs to keep in mind that a NSP is a swimming pool and a water garden in one.

And as a bonus: even though the pools are growing in popularity, you’re still very likely to be the only one on your block — or maybe your entire county — with one of these beauties.


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