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Natural Pools – The Pros & Cons of Going Au Naturel

We look at the Pros and Cons of Natural Pools and discuss the chemistry & science behind NSP’s. With guests Rudy Stankowitz & Allen Schnaak.

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Natural Pools - The Pros & Cons of Going Au Naturel - Are NSP's (Natural Swimming Pools Safe?)

The chlorine shortages we’ve been facing this pool season has consumers looking for viable alternatives to a traditionally chlorine sanitized pool. Natural pools first started as a trend a few decades ago in Europe and over the past few years have slowly been gaining traction in the United States and Australia.

A Natural Pool BioNova built in Germany.

What is a Natural Pool?

A natural swimming pool typically doesn’t use chlorine for sanitization. NSP’s use plants to filter the water chemistry naturally, without chemicals. In most applications, the swimming pool is divided into two different sections: an area for swimming, and a dedicated regeneration zone with living plants that feed hydroponically on the water.

How does a natural pool work?

The water itself is naturally filtered by microorganisms through biological filtration plant life in the regeneration zone. The water is cleaned and filtered as it passes through the regeneration zone, and then back into the swimming area. A pump allows slow moving water to passively filtrate and the movement helps prevent mosquitos from breeding.

Small aquatic animals, such as microscopic algae-eating daphnia, snails, and amphibians, will typically colonize the regeneration zone of a natural pool environment over time.

This photo of a natural pool appears to have the blue water U.S. consumers expect in a chlorine pool.

Natural Pools Are Becoming More Popular

Allen Schnaak, Vice President of Business Development for BioNova Natural Pools thinks this could actually be a pivotal moment to introduce the pool industry to a new way of looking at how to filtrate and treat bodies of water. Recently Schnaak spoke with the Wall Street Journal touting the virtues of a chemically independent pool environment, and suddenly folks have begun to seriously pay attention.

BioNova is one of a handful of companies around the United States that are specializing in building NSP’s (natural swimming pools). Schnaak, who has appeared in numerous articles on the subject, has been working to educate consumers as well as the pool industry about the benefits of bio filtering swimming pools without the use of chlorine or other chemicals.

The Value Proposition of owning a Natural Pool

“Biological filtration in a natural pool has the same objectives as chemical applications.” said Schnaak who has a long history in the pool industry and worked on the chemical side before embracing natural pools. “The purpose of adding chemicals to the pool,” continued Schnaak, “is the same purpose of biological filtration and that is to reduce and suppress the opportunity for pathogens to exist and thrive in the water.”

“We’re seeing this play out in natures backyard in Tampa Bay right now with the red tide influenced by a greater amount of nutrients than the ecosystem can consume which gives these pathogens an opportunity to thrive.” said Schnaak referring to a toxic algae bloom which has ravaged marine life and killed millions of fish over 100 square miles of Florida coastline.

The Red Tide has devasted many parts of the Florida Coastline this season. - Photo Credit: Edwina Pickles/The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media/Getty Images
Photo Credit: Edwina Pickles/The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media/Getty Images

We’ve seen plenty of articles discussing natural pools, how they work, and why consumers should consider building one. In my discussions with Schnaak prior to our interview, I asked him if he would be willing to have a frank and open conversation with Rudy Stankowitz who has openly expressed his disdain for natural filtration and disaffectionately refers to NSP’s as “ponds”. Schnaak jumped at the opportunity to address Stankowitz one on one on the Pool Magazine podcast.

The timing for Schnaak to pitch the value proposition for natural pools couldn’t come at a better moment. With the current shortages consumers are facing, plus a new emphasis on eco-consciousness, the opportunity is there for bio pools to pick up enormous traction. The problem however, is winning over the pool industry. Folks like Rudy Stankowitz, one of the foremost experts in swimming pool algae have their own ideas about how viable bio filtration truly is in comparison to using chlorine.

Girl enjoying a dip in a natural pool environment

Advantages of Natural Pools

  • Natural pools are eco-friendly and can work in a range of different climates.
  • Natural pools do not rely on chemicals like chlorine to sanitize the water in the pool.

Disadvantages of Natural Pools

  • Require larger lot sizes to build essentially two pools, one for swimming and the other to function as a regeneration zone.
  • Water color and clarity is not identical to that of a chemically treated chlorine pool.

“It is not necessary to chemically treat a pool in order to make it viable and healthful for someone to swim in.” said Schnaak, “Our opportunity in the market has certainly increased, and we’re definitely anxious and interested in getting more of our pool industry cohorts to consider that there is a viable option outside of chemical treatment.”

An Opportunity To Convince Non-Believers

Stankowitz, who recently authored a new book “How To Get Rid of Swimming Pool Algae“, has appeared on the Pool Magazine podcast when we discussed the chlorine shortages and the trajectory this years supply chain would take. Extremely knowledgeable when it comes to swimming pool chemistry, Stankowitz is a 30 year veteran and CEO of Aquatic Facility Training / CPOClass.com.

Allen Schnaak goes head to head in a discussion on NSP's with Rudy Stankowitz, Algae Expert
Allen Schnaak and Rudy Stankowitz went head to head in a thought prevoking discussion about the pros and cons of natural pools.

We felt that having Schnaak and Stankowitz go head to head would make for a compelling dialogue and we weren’t wrong. Stankowitz’s expertise and viewpoint create the perfect counterpoint for a dynamic conversation about natural pools. Schnaak and Stankowitz go way back and have a mutual respect for eachother, but currently they sit on opposite sides of an important issue. Whether natural pools are as safe to swim in and ultimately as cost feasible as chemically treated pools.

Are natural pools as cost efficient to build and ultimately maintain as traditional chlorine inground pools?

“Really, I’m not a fan” said Stankowitz, “I am a fan of algae being used for other things. Things are progressing, there’s been a lot more fuels. Even in waste water treatment, algae has become a major player. My problem is that this is basically a pond and it looks like a pond.”

“As long as anything living gets into it, there is going to be constantly things that are introduced to that body of water that are not able to be eradicated quick enough that it can’t cause a potential problem for human beings. The follow up to that which is just as heavy is water clarity. We know that 10% of all drownings are attributed to cloudy water situations.” said Stankowitz.

Schnaak says that people need to rethink the notion that natural pools are green messy bodies of bond water.

“The preconceived notion that all natural pools are green messy bodies of pond water are just a misimpression. We’ve done pools with water clarity easily down to 12 feet. I’m a big believer in safe water environments. In fact the swimming pools we design are built to ICC and ANSI standards. The vessels are safe, and to that point water clarity is not an issue.” said Schnaak.

“If your only experience with a natural pool is looking at a green cloudy pond, then there’s a greater exploration of opportunity. We’ve got a 20,000 square foot public pool up at Webber Park with a 13 foot diving well that is totally clean with a 500 person bather load.”

Webber Parks Natural Pool in Minneapolis
Webber Park’s Natural Pool in Minneapolis
  • Swimming pool is 21,000 sq. ft. (500,000 gallons water)
  • Regeneration basin is approximately 16,250 sq. ft.


“The Opportunity Is On You”

Stankowitz replied “We’re giving you the benefit of the doubt. The opportunity is on you…” in reference to changing perception in the market that not all natural pools are ponds. “I’ve only seen the pictures that people put out there and honestly I have never in any magazine, in any post or anywhere seen a natural pool that is not green. So the opportunity for education is on you. I’ve known you a long time and I believe you.”

Natural Pools utilize a regeneration zone to biofiltrate water back into the pool.

“From the standpoint of the industry and where it is in the United States, natural pools are not nearly as prevalent in the U.S. as they are in Europe. 16% of the recreational water in Europe are natural swimming pools. Probably less than 0.3% in the U.S. can be termed as a natural pool.” said Schnaak.

“The opportunity for helping the industry recognize that this is a viable method for maintaining recreational water is on us, you’re right; and it’s really up to the market as well. There certainly is an increasing interest by those looking for more sustainable options for pool care.” continued Schnaak.

“The opportunity for nutrients to be put into a body of water is going to be defined by the footprint that it has in the landscape.” said Schnaak. “As any pool is constructed it’s always built so that it does not allow surface runoff to enter the pool.”

Debating The Safety of Natural Pools

“We do know that with a given square footage there is an anticipdated amount of environmental depositions of nutrients that are constantly bombarding the pool.” said Schnaak, “In a chemical environment they are referred to as contaminants because everything that can be oxidized, reduced or killed has to be killed as soon as you begin taking out the beneficial microbial life that would be consuming it.”

“I don’t necessarily know that I agree with you that if you have diatoms present in a body of water that you will not see cyanobacterial biofilm.” said Stankowitz.

“I understand the process that we’re feeding the water with phosphates and silicates so that diatoms can outgrow and use up the nitrates so that nothing else can have them therefore they don’t grow. In theory, that works great. The problem is just like there are carbon fixing diatoms, there are nitrogen fixing cyanobacteria so you will still have these biofilms, and these biofilms do harbor many other disease causing organisms such as Legionella and Naegleria fowleri (the brain eating amoeba),” continued Stankowitz.

“I’ve done extensive studies on black algae which is cyanobacteria and in those biofilms I’ve found diatoms living happily. It’s not an incompatible relationship if you have the right diatoms and the right cyanobacteria.” said Stankowitz.

“It’s interesting that diatoms are a participant,” responded Schnaak, “they are part of the population, but they are not the only microbial life. When you consider phytoplankton, zooplankton, the entirety of population of beneficial bacteria that has been specialized for the nitrogen reduction cycle.”

Schnaak suggested that copepod zooplankton like Daphnia which grazes in fresh water environments on cysts like Cryptosporidium and Giardia and harmful viruses to which Stankowitz responded with a few different “what if” scenarios. “To your point about Daphnia, it feeds til it explodes and releases that back into the water. That’s also the problem we are having with the red tide. Daphnia doesn’t last long enough to contain it all and then if it’s consumed by an animal, a person can eat that animal, or it can be defecated or released into the atmosphere and that could make it’s way back into the pool.”

Webber Park Natural Pool built by BioNova Natural Pools

Changing Perception That Chlorine Is King

“I think the major challenge for you,” Stankowitz said to Schnaak, “is chlorine does kill these things. We have proof that chlorine kills those things. What we need then if this is true, if this system takes all these things out, we need to get that research out and make that common knowledge because that’s how you gain more acceptance in the pool industry,” continued Stankowitz.

Schnaak agreed and said that as a member of the council for the Model Aquatic Health Code that they’d begun participating in an ad-hoc committee for the evaluation and potential implementation of biological filtration for public aquatic venues. Schnaak agreed there is much that is still misunderstood about natural pools and that each project has to account for the specific environment, size, bather load and unique characteristics.

No One Size Fits All Solution

Natural swimming pools are very dependent on maintaining ideal conditions for the plant life which bio filtrates and allows useful organisms to thrive. “There isn’t a one size fit’s all, neither is there in chemical applications. There’s not a pool out there where you couldn’t find a pathogen or organism living in that environment. The presence of chlorine does not indicate a sanitized environment.” said Schnaak.

Ultimately, Stankowitz still had serious questions pertaining to how long harmful pathogens can survive in the biofilm in a natural pool and insists that chlorine is still the most reliable solution for sanitizing pools. Schnaak is adamant that the system that BioNova has created is capable of biologically filtering swimming pools to the point where they are viably safe swimming environments.

Stankowitz said that while he’s open minded to the concept of natural pools, he needs to see more conclusive research on the subject before he’s swayed from using tried and true chlorine sanitization methods, which prompted Schnaak to invite him and as well as others interested in learning more about natural filtration methods, to seek out more information on the Association for Swimming Ponds and Natural Swimming Pools website.

Natural pools and ponds have become increasingly popular with the recent chlorine shortages

Why Have Natural Pools Been Slow To Catch On In The U.S.?

While natural pools are becoming increasingly popular in Europe, there is no denying that they have a nominal marketshare in the United States. In this humble editors opinion, there are several impediments towards more acceptance beyond those early adapters.

One is the public perception that all pools must have crystal clear blue water. Another are the requirements for constructing a natural pool. Given the need for an additional regeneration zone, most natural pools are typically built on larger sized lots. The initial build and configuration cost for a natural pool is also much more than your typical inground pool. There is definitely some give and take in terms of initial cost concerns versus ongoing chemical costs.

There are also a good portion of consumers that while aware of natural pools, have a tendency to believe a popular misconception; which is that NSP’s maintain themselves. Natural pools, just like chemically treated pools still require routine maintenance and to some extent even more attention than a chemically treated pool in order to ensure a harmonious water environment.

Still Schnaak remains a champion for the bio filtration cause and says a growing percentage of environmentally conscious homeowners yearn to go chlorine free. As such, he will continue to facilitate and fan that interest to generate more excitement and awareness about natural pools.

Q&A Fact Sheet About Natural Swimming Pools – NSP’s courtesy of Allen Schnaak – Vice President of BioNova Natural Pools

Listen to our entire interview with Allan Schnaak and Rudy Stankowitz on the Pool Magazine podcast.

Featured Photo Credit & Article Photo Credits: BioNova Natural Pools

4.8/5 - (27 votes)

Editor in Chief of Pool Magazine - Joe Trusty is also CEO of PoolMarketing.com, the leading digital agency for the pool industry. An internet entrepreneur, software developer, author, and marketing professional with a long history in the pool industry. Joe oversees the writing and creative staff at Pool Magazine. To contact Joe Trusty email [email protected] or call (916) 467-9118 during normal business hours. For submissions, please send your message to [email protected]

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HTX Surf Will Be a World Class Surf Destination in Houston

HTX Surf is set to start construction in Houston,TX early 2023.

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HTX Surf Will Be a World Class Surf Destination in Houston

HTX Surf, a premier surf resort and destination, is set to begin development in early 2023. According to the press announcement, the new surf resort will be conveniently positioned in Generation Park, only ten minutes from Bush Intercontinental Airport, and within 60 minutes of nearly seven million people in the city of Houston.

In a press statement, HTX Surf was described as providing a “surfing experience rivaling the ocean by delivering perfect waves every time.” The technology behind HTX Surf can generate up to 1,000 waves per hour, and it can be adjusted to produce waves of varying sizes to accommodate surfers of varying abilities.

Beach Street Development’s new surf 15-acre surf resort is planned to start construction sometime in 2023. HTX Surf will draw surf enthusiasts of all ages and abilities from all corners of the globe.

HTX Surf complex will feature a six-acre lagoon that is sure to become a world-class surfing destination.
HTX Surf complex will feature a six-acre lagoon that is sure to become a world-class surfing destination.

Plans for the new surf complex include a six-acre surf lagoon that can accommodate more than 70 surfers per hour and allows novice and advanced surfers to surf simultaneously. A beach will be built for guests who want to watch the surfers.

“This is a special location for us as it is true to our vision of sharing great waves with everyone, everywhere in the world, specifically those who live far away from the ocean. We are looking forward to seeing HTX Surf bring our Wavegarden Cove technology to Houston,” said Fernando Odriozola, Wavegarden’s Chief Commercial Officer.

HTX Wavegarden Cove Lagoon - Photo Credit: HTX Surf
HTX Wavegarden Cove Lagoon – Photo Credit: HTX Surf

A Closer Look at HTX Surf

HTX Surf’s Wavegarden Cove lagoon will be an inland fantasy surfing destination with guaranteed waves and a tropical beach atmosphere modeled after some of the world’s best surf spots. The revolutionary method accurately reproduces the motion of water particles in ocean ground swells, without the presence of secondary waves that degrade the wave quality. Very little energy is wasted as forces are transferred from the machinery to the water, resulting in maximum efficiency. Each module in the Wavegarden Cove will be powered by its own electro-mechanical system and move in unison to create perfectly timed waves. Different modes and types of waves can be changed with the push of a button, to easily modify the wave’s form and size.

Wave technology will allow different modes of surfing. Photo Credit: HTX Surf
Wave technology will allow different modes of surfing

In addition to surfing, there will also be a skateboard pump track, members-only club, hot tubs, fire pits, pool, beach sections with food and drink options, and an event lawn for concerts and festivals.

According to projections made by Alex Bergman, principal partner of Beach Street Development and Operations, the opening is expected to take place in the fall of 2024.

“We plan to break ground this winter and are working with a well-known Houston-based (general contractor) that also has offices around the country,” said Bergman.

Photo Credits: HTX Surf

5/5 - (1 vote)

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PoolCorp Rings Opening Bell at Nasdaq

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PoolCorp Rings Opening Bell at Nasdaq

On Tuesday, October 25, 2022, Pool Corporation (Nasdaq: POOL) rang the opening bell at the Nasdaq MarketSite (4 Times Square, New York) to commemorate more than 25 years of being listed on the market. A number of POOLCORP officials and directors joined CEO Peter Arvan to mark the event.

Recently listed by Barron’s as one of the 10 Hottest Stocks Over the Past 30 Years, ringing the bell marked an important milestone for PoolCorp which trades as the ticker symbol ‘POOL’ on the Nasdaq Global Select Market exchange.

Watch PoolCorp ring the Nasdaq Opening Bell

Fast Facts About PoolCorp:

South Central Pool Supply, Inc. was founded in 1993, renamed SCP Pool Corporation in 1995, and debuted on the NASDAQ on October 12, 1995. The proceeds from its first public offering (IPO) were utilized to retire the company’s debt and provide the capacity to borrow to further accelerate growth via new acquisitions and the opening of service center locations. The company’s name was changed to Pool Corporation in 2006. 

POOLCORP officials and directors joined CEO Peter Arvan for the ringing of the opening bell at Nasdaq.
POOLCORP officials and directors joined CEO Peter Arvan for the ringing of the opening bell at Nasdaq.

Today, Pool Corporation is the leading distributor of swimming pool equipment, parts, supplies, and accessories. These products include non-discretionary pool care items, such as chemicals and replacement parts, packaged pools (kits to construct swimming pools that include walls, liners, bracing, and other materials), and pool equipment, such as cleaners, filters, heaters, pumps, and lighting.

The company currently maintains 336 sales centers throughout North America, Europe, South America, and Australia, through which it sells more than 160,000 national brand and private label items to about 100,000 wholesale customers.

Featured Photo Credit: PoolCorp

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Glass Infinity Pool at Chalet Al Foss is a Hidden Gem of the Alps

The glass infinity pool at Chalet Al Foss has become a world class pool destination for selfie hungry travelers.

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When you think of the most romantic pools in the world, what comes to mind? Maybe the pool at the Hanging Gardens in Bali or the Jade Mountain Resort in St. Lucia. But have you ever heard of the Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort’s glass infinity pool? This hidden gem is located in Northern Italy and is a must-see for any traveler looking for a unique swimming experience.

Photos of the Chalet Al Foss Alpine Resort's glass infinity pool have gone viral on social media.
Photos of the Chalet Al Foss Alpine Resort’s glass infinity pool have gone viral on social media.

Chalet Al Foss is An Alpine Dream With a Glass Infinity Pool

The Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort is a five-star hotel that sits atop a mountain in the heart of the Italian Alps. The resort is known for its luxurious accommodations and world-class amenities, but it’s the luxury glass swimming pool that really steals the show. This one-of-a-kind pool offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.

The glass infinity pool at Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort is certainly a bucket-list-worthy pool destination.
The glass infinity pool at Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort is certainly a bucket-list-worthy pool destination.

When it comes to bucket list travel experiences, swimming in an infinity glass pool high up in the Alps has got to be right up there. And there’s no better place to do it than at the Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort.

More About This World Class Infinity Pool

Situated in the picturesque commune of Vermiglio in Trentino, which is famous for its scenic mountains. With 118,142 inhabitants, Trento is the third largest city in the Alps. Trentino, in northeastern Italy, in the heart of the Italian Alps, between Lake Garda and the Dolomites. Consequently, the Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort has become a world-class destination for luxury travelers. The resort is home to a stunning glass infinity pool that offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains.

Swimming in the glass infinity pool is an unforgettable experience and one that you’ll definitely want to add to your bucket list. Here’s everything you need to know about swimming in the Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort’s infinity pool.

The Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort’s glass pool is located on the top floor of the resort, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. The pool is heated, so you can enjoy a swim even in the cooler months.

The Chalet Al Foss is drawing travelers who are looking for the most Instagrammable pool destinations.
The Chalet Al Foss is drawing travelers who are looking for the most Instagrammable pool destinations.

Instagram Selfies Are a Must

If you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime luxury swimming experience, the Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort may just be the place for you. This is a pool destination that ranks high with travelers. The swimming pool and picturesque snowy backdrop create the ultimate opportunity to take some memorable selfies.

One traveler on Kayak.com gave it a 9.0 and said “Very Instagrammable, quiet, and very romantic.” Another on Booking.com gave it 10 out of 10 and said, “the view from the rooms and outdoor pool is breathtaking. Fantastic experience, just a magical hotel.”

Chalet Al Foss All Resort

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting this world-class pool destination:

When to go: The best time to visit the Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort is during the summer months when the weather is warm and sunny. The pool is open from June to September, so plan your trip accordingly.

How to get there: The Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort is located in the town of Vermiglio. There are 4 ways to get from Milan to Chalet Al Foss, Vermiglio by train, car, bus, or shuttle. The closest airport to Vermiglio is Bolzano/Bozen (BZO). One of the better options for getting to Vermiglio is Autostradale which operates a bus from Milano Lampugnano to Mezzana Station once daily.

Address: Localita’ Foss, 2, 38029 Vermiglio TN, Italy
Phone: +39 0463 758161

What to pack: Since the Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort is located in the mountains, it’s important to pack appropriately for your trip. Be sure to bring a bathing suit, sunscreen, and comfortable walking shoes.

What to do: In addition to swimming in the glass pool, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy at the Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort. You can go hiking or biking in the surrounding mountains, take a cable car up to the nearby glacier, or relax in the hotel’s spa.

No matter what time of year you visit, the Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort is an alpine dream that sure to impress. So, what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!

Photo Credits: Chalet Al Foss Alp Resort

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