Inspired by the idyllic pictures of natural pools around the world, Kevan and Karen Zunckel have converted their swimming pool in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. The study of natural pools is a relatively new science with a bias towards European conditions and the little knowledge available is kept under proprietary information.
They have developed this “Natural Pools | How to Retrofit your Conventional Pool” informational eBook as guide for others who might like to follow suit and it is their hope that it goes some way towards bridging this information divide.
They take the reader through the project step-by-step, discussing how to design the regeneration zone around the swimming area, including a rock cascade or waterfall for various natural pools system types; fit the rubber liner; plant the edges with indigenous water plants; and the pumping options to circulate the water through the plants that filter and clean the water. Some of the interesting water creatures that are attracted to these man-made water bodies are also included. There is a ‘go to’ section with suppliers advertising their services and products.
The Zunckels bring to the project a scientific understanding of the functioning of a wetland and eco-design aspects of a project of this nature, and a passion for creating wildlife habitat in their garden. It is a brutally honest précis of their experience and they share some of the lessons they learnt along the way.
This is a well-researched, thoughtful and easy to follow, step by step process to self-build your own natural pool. And finally, something useful for South African conditions!
“NATURAL POOLS | How to Retrofit your Conventional Swimming Pool” is distributed by the Authors.
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Kevan and Karen Zunckel are real people. This quiet, unassuming couple are genuinely concerned for the future of South Africa and its fragile environment. It has been my privilege to have worked with them on a number of public benefit projects over the past decade. Their names crop up often in wide ranging conversations, and always with respect. They have been at the forefront or in the wings of many projects, from the inception of Pietermaritzburg’s Sustainable Living and Indigenous Plant Fair, the Founders of the KwaZulu Natal Midlands Green Map, to the real and present danger of fracking in South Africa and KZN. They can always be relied on to lend their extensive knowledge and enthusiasm to relevant pressing issues facing this generation as we grapple our way out of a Fossil Fuel economy.
Whilst most people talk about recycling, growing your kitchen garden, going off grid, becoming water independent, living the future green life, this humble partnership have been actively converting their lives, their working environment and their home. Not many of the vocal casual and professional environmentalists from the many, many organisations in the KZN Midlands and its hinterland have done as much as this family from Hilton, Umgeni, KwaZulu Natal.
So it came as no surprise, when, nearly year ago, I popped in for yet another community activism meeting, that the process of converting their pool to a natural pool had begun. No fanfare, no fuss, just doing it.
As I often quote to those non-believers, including the myriad swimming pool builders or current owners of chemically treated pools… “Those who say it cannot be done, should not interrupt those who are doing it!”
Kevan and Karen are not swimming pool experts, but they are respected experts in ecological systems, wetlands, sustainable landscapes and our indigenous flora and fauna. And they are real people, living real lives, in a real home, without the massive resources of the “rich and famous” that we see on Discovery Channel or in these impossibly beautiful homes in exotic locations around the world! Their conversion of a basic pool is inspiring, practical, honest and just plain useful.
In typical fashion, they provide a well-researched, thoughtful and easy to follow, step by step process to self-build your own natural pool. And finally, something useful for South African conditions!
The daunting (and expensive) task (if you speak to traditional swimming pool “experts”) is simplified. This guide gives you everything you need to know to convert your own pool and therefore, annoyingly, removes any excuses we have!
I expect this eBook to make a significant impact in thinking of our family and environmental health, and awareness of our surroundings. I expect this transition to grow from household to household. I expect this to be part of our future transitions’ move toward a greener, more sustainable and aware lifestyle. The Zunckels’ (“Whose uncle?” my kids always ask with a smile) pool provides a talking point, an entry into discussions we all need to be having. We face an uncertain energy and water future.
As respected environmental scientists, they have consistently proved their integrity by “walking the talk”.
Kevan and Karen have given us a window into the future. And they have done so in their typical, no nonsense, and humble fashion.
Thank you for sharing your journey with us. We look forward to the next instalments!
Francois du Toit
CEO, African Conservation Trust
One of the things we’ve discovered about Karen and Kevan Zunckel (Karen heads up the KZN Midlands Sustainability Forum & Green Map and frequently contributes to our e-magazine) is that these environmental consultants really do practice what they preach when it comes to sustainability, green living and having a lighter planetary footprint.
Their latest project was to convert their conventional swimming pool into a natural pool – which was no mean feat and was accomplished during the December holidays last year.
“Working out how to stack the rocks and not puncture the liner was a real challenge,” Karen told me as we viewed their handiwork at their home recently. “We’re waiting for the plants to grow back in earnest after the winter now. The biggest challenge with a natural pool is managing algae but we haven’t used any chemicals or salt since the conversion, so we’re very happy with the results.”
To enable others to achieve the same, the couple have put together an informational e-book detailing their own research and their practical experiences. The book begins by detailing the different natural pool designs, explains the science behind natural water purification and how nature does it, as well as legal issues with links to the relevant legislation that might affect you as you do your conversion. The following chapters deal with how to design and landscape your new-look pool, what materials and equipment you will need, a step-by-step guide to retrofitting and construction, building the wetland area of the pool and populating it with indigenous plants, and the operation and care of your pool afterwards. For those who are keen on gardening for wildlife, there is also a chapter on what aquatic creatures you are likely to attract with your natural pool. Karen and Kevan also share some of what they learned (positive and negative) from their own experience in the final chapter of the book.
Bronwyn Howard is the Editor of Urban Eco Life, an e-magazine focusing on planet-friendly living and sustainable lifestyles. Find out more at www.urbanecolife.biz.
From the under-pinning legislation through the mechanics of retrofitting, best materials and every other aspect of ‘how-to’, including landscaping around your newly-refurbished natural pool, this eBook will provide everything you might need to know to turn your old-school swimming pool into a natural refuge in the suburbs. With clear graphics to help you figure out all the technical bits, plus links to relevant regulations, resources and information, there is really nothing left out of this excellent piece of work. And aside from the pleasing aesthetics and much-reduced running costs, your new natural pool is going to be the envy of every visitor who lays eyes on it – it’s like bringing a piece of nature into your own garden. A must-get if you are planning on doing away with the old chemical-intensive style of swimming pool for something a bit more eco-friendly.