Outdoors

Canada's first public natural swimming pool set to open in Edmonton

Canada's first public natural ...
Using the Borden Natural Swimming Pool is said to be like swimming in "a very, very, very clean lake"
Using the Borden Natural Swimming Pool is said to be like swimming in "a very, very, very clean lake"
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The Borden Natural Swimming Pool's UV treatment system
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The Borden Natural Swimming Pool's UV treatment system
The Borden Natural Swimming Pool's dechlorination system utilizes charcoal and shredded coconut shells
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The Borden Natural Swimming Pool's dechlorination system utilizes charcoal and shredded coconut shells
The Borden Natural Swimming Pool's phosphorous absorber
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The Borden Natural Swimming Pool's phosphorous absorber
The Borden Natural Swimming Pool's Neptune filter
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The Borden Natural Swimming Pool's Neptune filter
The Borden Natural Swimming Pool opens on July 11th
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The Borden Natural Swimming Pool opens on July 11th
Additional water purification is possible using these two pools, which contain zooplankton that eat viruses and bacteria
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Additional water purification is possible using these two pools, which contain zooplankton that eat viruses and bacteria
Using the Borden Natural Swimming Pool is said to be like swimming in "a very, very, very clean lake"
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Using the Borden Natural Swimming Pool is said to be like swimming in "a very, very, very clean lake"
The Borden Natural Swimming Pool also features a shallow "kiddie pool"
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The Borden Natural Swimming Pool also features a shallow "kiddie pool"

Although chlorine-free public natural swimming pools have become popular in Europe, so far there has only been one in North America – the Webber Park pool in Minneapolis, which began operations in 2015. That's about to change, however, when the Borden Natural Swimming Pool opens in Edmonton, Alberta later this week. We dropped by to learn more about it.

First of all, how is it even possible for the water in a no-chlorine pool to stay clean? Well, the Borden pool utilizes a system that was created in consultation with three groups – German natural pool company Polyplan, plus the designers of the Webber Park pool, along with Alberta Health Services.

Here's how it works …

When the pool is initially being filled at the start of the season, regular tap water is used. Its chlorine is naturally removed using a filter that contains a mixture of charcoal and shredded coconut shells. The dechlorinated water subsequently flows through a phosphorous absorber (which removes any phosphates present in the water), plus it goes through the pool building's rooftop Neptune filter, which contains crushed granite and live aquatic plants – this helps purify the water by essentially acting as an artificial wetland.

The Borden Natural Swimming Pool's Neptune filter
The Borden Natural Swimming Pool's Neptune filter

"The sprayers at the top aerate the water, so it gets onto the plants," facility manager Cyndi Schlosser told us, explaining how the Neptune works. "The plants are going to absorb some nutrients out of the water – your phosphates, your nitrogens, and other microscopic components – then the granite filters out other particles, plus the biofilm that grows on the granite will also absorb contaminants."

Once the pool is in use for the year, its water is continuously circulated back through the system, although this time a few extra steps are added.

The water starts by going through a series of three basins that strain out light items such as hairs, while also removing heavier particles, which settle to the bottom. From there, it goes up through the Neptune filter, then through the phosphorous absorber, plus it passes through a system that exposes it to bacteria-killing ultraviolet light.

Finally, before re-entering the pool, the water is heated to a temperature of 23 ºC (73 ºF) – this makes it reasonably comfortable for swimmers, yet cool enough to discourage the growth of bacteria.

The Borden Natural Swimming Pool opens on July 11th
The Borden Natural Swimming Pool opens on July 11th

So, why bother building a natural swimming pool, when regular chlorinated pools are already tried and trusted? Well, for one thing, natural pools are claimed to be cheaper to run, plus chlorine is irritating to many people. According to facility manager Carveor Triggs, however, there's more to the appeal of Edmonton's new pool.

"The whole concept of returning to a natural pool dates back to the historical origins of Borden Park, where this was actually started as a swimming hole in the early 1900s, and then was first outdoor pool in Edmonton to have heat and enclosed change rooms" he said. "This returns it back to a more natural swimming environment."

The grand opening of the Borden Natural Swimming Pool takes place this Wednesday (July 11th). As with all other outdoor pools throughout the city, admission will be free for the entire summer.

Project website: Borden Natural Swimming Pool

7 comments
BobMunck
My hometown, Hot Springs SD in the Black Hills, has an indoor swimming pool called the Evans Plunge. It is about 200' x 50' with concrete sides and river stone bottom. A warm mineral spring flows up through the stone at about 5000 gallons/minute and 87° F. No chemicals are added. The Plunge has been there since 1890. It seems to me that that fits the definition of a "natural" swimming pool and, being about 125 years older than the one in Minneapolis, is in the running for "oldest."
SimonClarke
I'm glad I read the article and didn't just turn up without my swim wear.
s_s_miles
And what about the pool at Balmorhea State Park out in West Texas? Definetely not as old as the Plunge, but been in operation since 1968, and is natural/non-chlorinated/spring-fed… https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balmorhea_State_Park
charles44
Venetian Pool, Coral Gables, Fla., fills with fresh water daily, has been around almost a century.
Dakster
I remember swimming in a natural pool in Coral Gables, Florida. Venetian pool, it was emptied and refilled daily. This one takes that concept to a whole new level, since the water is filtered and circulated. Could even be used to grow food, furthering the low cost to operate.
Nik
Well, maybe these pools will make W C Fields comment, ''I dont use swimming pools because they are x parts chlorine to x parts urine,'' obsolete, but that will still leave the urine component!
Richard D. McDowell
MhicDhuGhaill Minnesota does not have the only natural pool in the US, check out Landa Park in New Braunfels TX.