How to build your own natural swimming pond

We got great feedback when we introduced you to the ultimate swimming pond. If you missed the post, you can read it here.

We live in a climate where being able to ‘take a dip’ is almost obligatory.  But, if you’ve had a pool previously, you know that it’s not all fun!  Pools are expensive to install and maintain.  And they demand your time or an investment in a ‘pool guy’.

When we saw the swimming pond concept, it was love at first sight.  Your comments told us we were not alone.  Don’t be bashful… let’s do something about it!  How about having your own pond in time for the next swimming season?

DIY Ultimate 

This is truly a DIY project.  You can have your pond and your bank account too!  It’s in harmony with nature, will enhance your lifestyle and turn your yard into the Garden of Eden.  And the best part is that it is very low maintenance.

It’s the perfect solution for those of us who have had pools and the headaches inherent with them.

A natural swimming pond under construction.
A natural swimming pond under construction.

Have you got doubts? Do you think the project might be beyond your skills?  Maybe you think you don’t have enough space.  Read on while we show you just how easy this is…

Council approval 

The councils we surveyed didn’t have a clue what we were talking about 🙂  Obviously, a swimming pond just doesn’t fit into their neat little boxes.  If it is a pond and is NOT used for swimming or ‘paddling’, it appears that neither approval nor a pool fence is needed.

If the intention IS to use the pond for swimming or even for ‘paddling’, a fence is needed if depth exceeds – wait for it… 300mm!  A pool fence requirement draws in the need for council approval.

It appears to be a moot point.  A dam does not require fencing even though it may be used for swimming.  You’ll have to do your own homework.  However, be aware that if you do need approval, the penalties for not complying can be harsh – especially in regard to fences.

The right location 

Sometimes it pays to state the obvious…

Where are your drains and services?  Make sure you know where everything is before you start digging.  Of course, some services like stormwater are easily redirected.  In fact, that same roof water can be redirected to your new pond rather than flowing uselessly to the street!

Other services like underground power or sewerage lines are a much bigger challenge.  Apart from direct cost, they may also involve your local government.

You also need to consider nearby trees.  A fig or a willow will love your pond more than you will!  If you want a beautiful, verdant look without future problems, consider plants like cordylines, tiger grass (Thysanolaena maxima), crotons and even some of the smaller clumping bamboos like Rachal Carson or Gracilis.

The right aspect 

If you live on a larger block, you may have a choice of aspect.  It’s tempting to put your pond out in the open where it can get as much sun as possible.  Think twice!  A little bit of shade can actually extend the usability of your pond.

The right size 

Big may be beautiful but not if it restricts or denies use of your yard for other recreational pursuits.  Will you use your pond to swim or just to cool off?  Even for swimming, you might want to consider long and narrow rather than long and wide.  Remember, you have to keep water up to your pond just as you would a pool.

You also need to consider the regeneration zone.  If you want a near zero maintenance pond, the regeneration zone needs to be of equal size to the swimming zone.  This also avoids the need for any additional sterilization such as artificial UV.

To skim or not to skim?

Decomposing leaves provide nutrients for algae.
Decomposing leaves provide nutrients for algae.

If you are close to overhanging trees, a skimmer may well be a necessity.  The advantage is water clarity as fallen leaves provide nutrients for algae.

Water circulation

The water must be able to circulate freely to achieve two objectives.

Filtration:

If the water can’t circulate through the regeneration zone, your pool won’t stay clear for long.

Comfort:

Circulation will distribute the water temperature evenly.  Without it, the water will be warm near the surface and progressively cooler as you go deeper.

The good news for you, your budget and the environment is that the required pump is small and requires minimal energy.

Construction method

There are three alternative systems or methods you can consider.

1/            Block wall construction

This system allows you to have a very precise shape with vertical walls in the swimming area.  You can achieve the most efficient use of space with this method.  The downside is that it is more expensive and requires a greater skill level.

This building method allows for more formal shapes in your swimming pond
This building method allows for more formal shapes in your swimming pond
This pond uses blocks in order to constrain the size while still providing a good swimming area.
This pond uses blocks in order to constrain the size while still providing a good swimming area.

2/            Corner element construction

This system uses prefabricated and precast components as much as possible.  Construction is quick and easy and it’s possible to have seating built in.  This method allows very flexible design while keeping costs moderate.

The use of precast components allows flexibility of design while keeping costs moderate.
The use of precast components allows flexibility of design while keeping costs moderate.

3/            Earth wall construction

This is the cheapest and easiest system for owner-builders.  It’s well within any person’s skill level and can be finished in a week!  The downside is that it requires more space due to the gently sloping walls.

Earth wall construction is the most cost-effective method for building a natural swimming pond.
Earth wall construction is the most cost-effective method for building a natural swimming pond.

In our next NSP post, we’ll be focusing on this third alternative since, as stated, it is well within any person’s skill level.

This pond was built by Beverly Easell and her family at a cost of E18,000, a saving of more than E100,000 over the quote from a natural pond company.
This pond was built by Beverly Easell and her family at a cost of €18,000, a saving of more than €100,000 over the quote from a natural pond company.

What are your thoughts on natural pools/swimming ponds?  What questions can we answer for you to help you decide if one is in your stars?  Just post your comments and questions below.  Don’t forget to share this article with your friends.

If you’re ready for Part 2, go here

 You might also enjoy reading Is a natural swimming pond the solution to swimming pool headaches?




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