Requests for a recreational pond, or a swim pond, or a natural swimming pool are increasing every day! People seem to have had enough of chemicals in their life. We understand this new trend and have always preached against chemically-dependent landscapes, using integrated pest management techniques instead.
The terms for these larger human-interactive bodies of water are often used interchangeably. The terms and descriptions in this article are based on how WE define them.
We deem a recreational pond to be simply a large ecosystem pond. Some people just want lots of Koi. Some people want to be able to wade in a bit, which would be necessary for gardening the feature. Some folks want game fish so they can practice their fly-fishing techniques.
A recreational pond starts in the size category of about 25’ x 30’, and includes a skimmer or intake bay, biological filter or constructed wetland, and is typically a 2-pump system. The plants and fish are contained within the pond itself. It is NOT designed for regular human swimming activities, as the pump is a submersible and the filtration system is designed for aquatic life, not human activity. You can get into any ecosystem pond, provided is designed and built properly for ingress and egress, for gardening activities, etc. However, we sell these as “landscape water features not intended for swimming.”
Budgets for this category begin around $40,000, and of course there are lots of options.
Swim Pond or NSP (Natural Swimming Pool)
A swim pond is a bit of a sticky subject as far as Arizona law is concerned. Arizona law currently does not have anything on the books for “swim ponds.” As it stands now, all bodies of water for human interaction over 18” in depth are considered “pools” and subject to those standards and restrictions.
A swim pond is a very large ecosystem pond, which would include at least one skimmer or intake bay, needs a constructed wetland for filtration at least 1/3 of the size of the pond, can have a separate pond area for the fish, and requires that the pumps be located outside of the feature. Yep, this is going to take up a little more room in your yard.
A natural swimming pool (NSP) is a whole different animal! The natural pool trend began in Europe several decades ago. Since then, they’ve been slowly gaining popularity in the United States, Australia, and other regions with sunny climates. Unlike a traditionally rectangular, chlorine-filled swimming pool, a natural pool is often designed to imitate pools, ponds, or other bodies of water in the wild with irregular shapes, rocks, waterfalls, and boulders.
This requires a pretty big yard because you’ll need a separate pump area and a very large regeneration zone for filtration.
An NSP is NOT cheaper than building a conventional pool. In addition, there will be a cumbersome permitting process, which Arizona laws are still not quite equipped to handle, so it’s going to be a hassle and take some time. But it can be done if you’re up to the task.
Budgets for this category begin around $85,000.
Pros & Cons of Swim Ponds or Natural Swimming Pools
There are a lot of things to think about when considering these types of water features.
If you’re considering any of these types of water features, here are a couple of cool videos about what goes into the design, construction & maintenance of recreational ponds, swim ponds, and natural swimming pools.
As a responsible contractor, we believe that you should have the WHOLE story. Here are a couple of resources for further research on concerns with recreational ponds, swim ponds and natural swimming pools:
Pond Itch is a concern in any open-air natural body of water, but can be avoided by simply hosing down or showering off immediately after being in the water. Ducks are actually the main perpetrator of this problem, as they transport this from pond to pond during their visits.
Brain-eating amoeba is a concern in warm fresh-water environments; however, this is a rarity that can be avoided by not putting your head under the water.
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