Jeff Steinberg's backyard oasis has a luxury pool with a walk-in beach, an integrated hot tub and a stream with local river rocks. But there's something itdoesn't have: chlorine.
His natural swimming pool in Princeton, N.J., uses plants in an adjacent area to clean the water, creating an aquatic habitat that includes water lilies, lotuses and toads."We hear them croak as they dive for cover," Steinberg says, noting how the toads scurry to their home base among the plants when his wife, Julia, swims morning laps.
Such pools or swimming ponds,which started gaining popularity in Austria in the 1980s and then spread to other countries, are slowly making inroads in the United States. At least two dozen homes now have them, according tointerviews with pool company executives, and Minneapolis officials say their city will soon be the first in the USA with a public natural pool.
Looks 'more like a lake'
"It won't look like a traditionalpool. It will look more like a lake," says Cliff Swenson, project manager for the city's Webber Park, where the swimming hole is slated to open as early as August 2013. He says it will meet thewater-quality standards for lakes, not pools — a difference that required the state legislature to approve it as a pilot project. Still, this is a man-made facility that will function as a pool.
He sayspublic health officials were hesitant, because it won't be a sterile environment. Yet he says similar venues in Europe haven't had bacteria problems, and the city will test the water two to three times aweek. If a problem occurs, it will close the pool — as it does with others — and the water will be recirculated through the wetlands and retested prior to reopening.
Swenson says the project, whichis expected to cost the same as a regular pool to build but less to operate, reflects the city's commitment to using sustainable measures to lower overall costs.
Similar ones will likely follow,...