Build Your Own Natural Swimming Pool, Using Plants Instead of Chlorine to Keep Water Clean

Natural swimming pools are actually GOOD for the environment and great for your skin! They also attract dragonflies and keep mosquitoes away! And you can build them yourself!

Studies have linked chlorine and other pool chemicals to allergies, asthma, lung damage, cancer, DNA damage, heart problems and birth defects.

Chlorine’s bad reputation has led those who can afford it to invest in all kinds of expensive substitutes such as salt water (which still requires some chlorine), ionization and UV light treatment.

But, there’s another option that’s been popular in Europe for decades and is just making its debut in North America – the “natural” or “organic” swimming pool.

(How to build your own DIY natural swimming pool video here.)

Basically it’s a swimming pool connected to a “side pool” or “border pool” filled with gravel, aquatic plants and animals that clean the water for you.

The natural area surrounding or to the side of the pool, called “the regeneration area” is kept separate from the swimming area with a retaining wall:

The water is pumped over the wall and through the regeneration area, which cleans, filters and oxygenates the water.

The plants in this area can include reeds, cattails, water lillies or any other native plant that acts as a filter.

Aquatic animals and bugs, like frogs and dragonflies, tend to stay in the regeneration area, while keeping mosquitoes and other pests at bay.

Instead of drying out your skin like chlorine, natural pools actually lubricate the skin, making you feel clean and soft. You can bathe in and even drink out of them.

Environmental impact

According to the British magazine Permaculture, natural pools are far better for the environment and can provide habitat for endangered aquatic species.

The average swimming pool owner drains around 20,000 gallons of chlorinated water into the environment each winter. The algae inhibitors and other chemicals are damaging to natural ecosystems.

Natural pools do not need draining. In winter, you can let them freeze over and they’ll regenerate again in spring, without sucking up 20,000 gallons of fresh water each year.

Additionally, natural pools can serve  as “a home to a host of endangered water species, who will further improve the filtering of the pool,” Sebastian von Holstein writes for Permaculture.

Germans have introduced the endangered water-filtering goose barnacle to their natural pools, which can filter up to 2,000 liters of water per day.

“There is a range of freshwater plants, fish, barnacles and mussels that form symbiotic relationships with one another to help filter your pool, while increasing the breeding rates of red-listed species, which can at a later date be released back into wild freshwater ponds and lakes,” Holstein says.

The natural swimming pool mimics natural systems, which are more cost effective and require less human labor to maintain, Holstein says.

“Just like healthy soil, a balanced water system contains all the micro-organisms needed to provide you with water so clean, you could wash with it and also drink it – many do!”

Natural pools require more money (or labor) to build up front, but are much cheaper in the long run.

For more info, check out How to Build a Natural Swimming Pool: The Complete Guide to Healthy Swimming at Home:





26 responses to “Build Your Own Natural Swimming Pool, Using Plants Instead of Chlorine to Keep Water Clean”

  1. Endia Avatar

    Would this have the potential to attract water snakes and mosquitoes here in the South Carolina USA?

    1. Rita Avatar

      I’m in NC too and was wonder that as well.. Or bears, bob cats, etc… I’m guessing it would.

      1. johnny Avatar

        Check youtube, bears even mountain lions visit regular CHLORINATED pools quite regularly in their range in the rocky mountains. The bears, in particular, take their time, and mother bears often take their kids to cool off on hot summer days. So assuming that bears and other critters aren’t visiting them in NC is due to the chlorine is clearly NOT correct. If anything, they have learned they are far more likely to be shot and killed in NC so steer clear of people’s swimming pools there. The videos of bears in people’s pools usually are narrated by homeowners thrilled (but still cautious) to share their pool with such an incredible beast especially if its a mom and cubs.

    2. Christin Avatar

      I would think the dragonflies and other wildlife attracted to the plants in the border pool would take care of the mosquitoes. Also, Mosquitoe larvae need stagnant water & this system lols like it’s circulated.

    3. Claire Smith Avatar
      Claire Smith

      In southern California local municipalities place “mosquito eater” fish into non-chemical pools. they eat mosquito larvae so the insects don’t grow there.

  2. Robert Brooker Avatar

    Hi Sara.

    This is a great article. I have been building these pools in South Africa since 2008.

  3. Kate Avatar

    Capitalize ‘Is’ in your title.

    1. Sara Burrows Avatar

      Would you like me to capitalize “to” as well?
      In Associated Press sytle you do not capitalize those kinds of works in headlines. But thanks for the authoritarian demand 🙂

      1. Scott Swanson Avatar
        Scott Swanson

        Perfect response!!

      2. Steve Prentice Avatar
        Steve Prentice

        Because “is” is a verb. “To” is a preposition. I suppose the rules on such things vary, but I was taught all verbs, even two letter ones, should be capitalized.

      3. Scott Carlstrom Avatar
        Scott Carlstrom


    2. Dr. Lakkis Avatar
      Dr. Lakkis

      Why?! In what writing style would anyone capitalize “is”?

      1. Aj Avatar

        It does look a bit odd when all the other words are capitalized….

      2. Jaysun Avatar

        Troll style…duh

      3. Laura Avatar

        First— bad Manners to pick on a spelling or punctuation error, while ignoring content. With the education level to earn an MD or doctorate you should be well aware of human error resulting from health issues( arthritis, ms, etc) and as an adult you should be aware of the idiosyncrasies of spell check and autocorrect. Shame on you.

  4. DebC Avatar

    I see no fences,, so that would tell me, there are animals from the woods that would help itself into the water.. like Turtles. ( We have humongous Turtles, you can’t even pick them up..and frogs and different kind of ducks that enjoys going into our water) Wild animals do look for water to hop into..

    1. P Avatar

      Wow your a wild animal… how dare they look for water in an inhospitable environment- selfish moron

      1. Lolly Avatar

        Point being, I’m sure, that you’d rather not create a swimming pool in your own backyard that attracts snapping turtles, that may bite your naked little toes when you go to use said pool for its intended use: swimming! So… why name call, “P?”

        DebC. Yes. A fence would keep away any animals from defecating in it! Not sure if I want to build a mosquito bedroom, either…

      2. Dorie Avatar

        I think the point is that the swimming pool might be more attractive to wildlife than the people who installed it. So much for clean. This idea is a bunch of bunk anyway, as a pool kept in this way would turn into a slimy mosquito fest in just a couple of weeks. Definitely not safe to drink out of like the article claims.

        1. Mark Avatar

          Probably if it was stagnant, but this is circulated.

  5. Barb Avatar

    Endia, they mentioned having fish in the regeneration side. The fish eat the mosquito larvae.

  6. Phaedra Avatar

    Thumbs up Sara. 🙂

  7. donna Avatar

    We turned our SW Florida swimming pool into a waterlily pond a few years ago. We love it. The water is so reflective and that adds another magical dimension. I personally would not drink it unless filtered.

  8. Mark McHenry Avatar
    Mark McHenry

    What a wonderful idea that gets rid of chlorine and is much more pleasing to the eye than a cement pond. Great job.

  9. Sue Lord Avatar
    Sue Lord

    Can something like this be done in a northern climate? I live in Minnesota, USA. Or lakes freeze feet deep in the winter.

    1. AJ Avatar

      Sue, Webber Park in Minneapolis has a public natural pool. Unfortunately it was closed for a bit this summer due to water quality issues. That’s being said, there were problems with the pool before it opened. Hopefully they will iron a lot of it out before next summer.