Natural Swimming Pools Australia, which builds chemical-free swimming pools, is so busy that it’s booked till the end of the year, says Annika Kvist, who runs and owns the Melbourne-based business together with partner Wayne Zwar and their son.
“People want natural… You have to think along those lines, being environmentally conscious is really trendy at the moment.
“In saying that,” she says, “it is a niche market because they are more expensive.”
The pools, she estimates, might cost about $80,000 for an average sized pool of 18 by 4 metres, while a conventional pool might cost between $50,000-$60,000.
But they will pay for themselves over 10 to 12 years, mostly because they use no chemicals, and are energy efficient in other ways. Only occasionally is a “hardener” necessary to adjust pH levels to the optimum of around seven. If the pH goes over nine, and the water is too soft, you get algae growth and the water will feel slimy. Australia is very lucky in that it has very healthy water by and large, which does not require much adjustment.
In the decade since it started Natural Swimming Pools has built about 40 pools. Most are domestic, and most are in Melbourne, because that is where the business is situated. Some are in other centres, or rural, and they have also done pools for guest houses such as for Villa Gusto in the Mount Buffalo National Park in Victoria.
Sometimes initial contact is from architects who will design the pools in, and sometimes direct from clients, in which case the company will travel to the site, do the design and use contractors to build.
Over the last three months, Kvist says, demand has increased and the number of enquiries has been “amazing”.
Visually, there are two main options. What they call a “living pool” looks like a conventional pool and has a biofilter attached, usually in the ground, which does the same job as their “natural pool”. It has another pool separated by a wall beside it, with a gravel filter pool bed with reeds and plants that absorb nutrients and bacteria. Biofilter pools are good where space is at a premium and can even be used in the inner city.
The microorganisms in effect clean the water, doing the same job as chemicals and the water is as clear as any conventional swimming pool.
The pools, Kvist says, use very energy-efficient German pumps as well as a “pool robot” to clean the walls.
Natural Swimming Pools is part of worldwide network begun in Europe about 30 years ago by Biotop, though the company has adapted the systems to conditions in Australia.
Europe is way ahead, though, Kvist says.
“We need to look after this planet quickly. These are places where animals come to drink, and dragonflies, from about 200 metres around your pool. Everything benefits from the oasis in the backyard. There are frogs in one of our Melbourne pools.
“They are beautiful to look at and great for swimming, like a crystal-clear river or lake. It feels really soft on your skin compared to chlorine or salt water. It’s not as cold and hard – my kids didn’t have showers for years because you don’t need a shower to wash off chemicals.”
They do, she cautions, take time because they are not like a fibreglass pool, which you can just install in three weeks. And, of course, as with many other higher quality products, they cost more.
“You have to have the budget. It is the same with houses.”