In 2013, a talk was delivered at the International Organisation for Natural Swimming Waters (IOB) conference in Bregenz, Austria entitled "Top Quality by Binding Standards". In this talk, the collective experience of the Austrian chapter of the IOB was shared with the audience.
The first true Natural Swimming Pool was built in 1987 in Austria. Because it is such a great concept, over the next 20 odd years many people jumped onto the bandwagon and tried their luck at building Natural Pools and an industry was born. This was not a succesful industry initially because many of the people who tried building did not understand the complexity and subtleties of creating consistent quality systems. The industry picked up a very bad name and many hundreds of people were left having to deal with poorly designed and poorly functioning pools - many of them disastrous.
To overcome these challenges, the IOB has issued regulations around the building of Natural Swimming Pools. In Austria, for example, it is now not allowed for unqualified people to build or design pools in order to preserve the reputation of the industry and to protect consumers from fly-by-night operators.
The problem still exists today where some landscapers, architects and DIY enthusiasts think that by putting some plants in the water they have built an EcoPool. It is even worse these days than it was 20 years ago with articles and videos popping up on the internet, often written by people who have only ever built one or two pools. The real danger lies in the fact that sometimes, by pure chance, circumstances result in pools that function acceptably - often for only a short time. Unfortunately the builders do not understand why they succeeded and so go on to repeat a poor design and ask money for doing it.
During the same Austrian visit, another problem was pointed out by a supplier of purification equipment and products: often, landscapers (who are creative people) will incorporate a Natural Swimming Pool in their garden design because it looks good. Once they leave the site, there is no backup and no ability to troubleshoot problems as they are not specialists and are busy with new creative projects. Clients will then look at the filter box and contact the supplier of the equipment to help because the landscapers are either unavailable, or are unable to fix the problem. This company has ceased to supply landscapers unless they have attended and keep up to date with a rigorous training programme.
Natural Swimming Pools are substantial investments that can turn out to be disastrous if not properly designed and maintained. It is essential to use experienced and well trained experts who can make sure that your investment is well spent and can fix problems whould they crop up.
Whatever you do, do not build a Natural Pool without consulting a real expert who has years of experience and a good number of pools under their belts (at least 100) and a thorough understanding of the principles of water chemistry and aquatic biology.