Page Sponsor: aQua-design are experts specialising in the design of aquatic ecosystems.

Tel: 082 417 4111

aQua-design has been designing aquatic ecosystems since 1990. Experience includes freshwater and salt water aquaculture and large aquarium systems; Natural Swimming Pools; aquatic ecosystem restoration; constructed wetlands; natural systems for wastewater management; rainwater harvesting and total water management systems and design.

aQua-Design provides a range of design options for would be DIY’ers who are confident that they can build pool on their own, but need some assistance with design and equipment.

Designing A Natural Pool From Scratch

The first question to ask is why the pool is being installed. Is it for fitness training, for a casual plunge, for health reasons, for kids to play in, to grow plants and attract wildlife, or simply to beautify the garden? The answer to these questions is initially often “all of the above”, but as you move through the design process, you will realise how important this question actually is.

Once the answer to this question is clear in your mind, consider this list of things that aQua-design has encountered in the past when thinking about your Natural Pool:

  • The size requirements and/or constraints of the pool. How many people will the pool accommodate?
  • The physical space where the pool should be situated: This includes orientation in relation to sun, large trees that can potentially drop leaves , flowers or berries, prevailing winds, shade, rainfall, frost (where appropriate). Slope of the land, proximity to the house and situation in the landscape.
  • The intended use of the pool. Is the pool for family use as part of an entertainment area? In which case the design will take into account the architecture of the house, or is it meant to be a part of the garden, in which case the design will be more oriented toward fitting in to the landscaping.
  • Aesthetic design: straight lines or organic? Must the pool look as natural as possible or must there be a separation between the pool and the surrounding landscape? Must the pool be integrated with the filter, or must it be separated?
  • The age profile of the swimmers: is the pool for toddlers, teenagers, adults or the aged?
  • The chemistry of the water being used for filling the pool and for topping evaporation.
  • Stormwater drainage; rainwater harvesting; drought measures.
  • Ground conditions: clay, sand, rock? How shallow is the water table; how stable is the soil?
  • Engineering: do you need an engineer to approve drawings or advise on construction methods?
  • Plant species: will they need to conform to local environmental laws; how do they integrate with the surrounding vegetation or architecture? Re they the best choice for the filtration system being installed?
  • Animal life: is there a lot of animal life around the pool? Are there dogs, livestock or wild animals that will use the pool? Think about frogs and how their calls will affect people close to the pool.
  • Safety and security: Fencing, pool covers, depths. Is the pool in a public space that needs to conform to certain regulations; are there municipal bylaws that apply?
  • Accessibility and entry points: steps, beaches, diving boards.
  • Depths and size of swimming and filtration zones.
  • Planning for existing underground services: sewer pipes or underground electricity cables.
  • Drawing plans: Do plans need to be submitted to a municipal council? What do the council need to be included?
  • Permission from neighbors?
  • Electrical needs and how this links with the electrics of the pool.
  • Underwater lighting for the pool, or feature lighting for the plants.
  • Sound: pumps, waterfalls, fountains and trickles. Do you need the pool to drown out the sound of traffic or sooth a space, or does it need to be absolutely quiet because it is close to a bedroom window?
  • How do all of the above relate to budget?

Once you have designed the system in concept, the design should be put to paper or drafted in a CAD program.

In your paper design, you should try include as much detail as possible. This will help you to foresee problems, budget and plan properly. It will also remind you, once the system is complete, where you put things so that in case you forget you can find vital underground pipes or other features.

It is a good idea to look around for images you like so that you can incorporate these in your design.

Map the space on graph paper or a CAD program so that you can note significant features such as property boundaries, trees and structures that might be in the way. The following should be included in the plan:

  • The physical shape and size of the water bodies.
  • The pipework, pumps, pump chambres, etc.
  • A basic planting diagram.
  • The electricity supply.
  • The top up and storm-water drainage.
  • Complete both a plan view and a cross section of the system.

Before starting with any physical work, there is some additional planning that needs to be done:

  • Is there access to the site for removal of soil, or delivery of materials?
  • Is there storage space for bulk items delivered such as filter gravels?
  • Is there security available?
  • Are their toilets for workmen?
  • Is there electricity available close to the site?

One of the biggest costs in construction is having somewhere to put the soil once it has come out of the ground. Soil can expand one-and-a-half times its size, and if it is clay, it can be even more. If possible, try to accommodate the soil on site. It can be used for landscaping, waterfalls, fountains, etc.

You are now ready to put spade to earth…