Minnesota might not be the first place to come to mind when you hear the words sustainability or environmentalism. However, the Land of 10,000 Lakes recently completed an incredible green initiative.
Webber pool in northern Minneapolis is the first naturally filtered pool in the country open to the public. The pool doesn’t use chemicals such as chlorine to cleanse the water. Instead, the pool is filtered and cleansed with a piping filtration system and a “regeneration basin.” Every 12 hours the water in the pool (around 500,000 gallons) slowly drains in and out of the basin. It utilizes more than 7,000 aquatic plants, gravel, and limestone.
The plants consume bacteria and nutrients in the water, while anything remaining sticks to the gravel. It’s a rather ingenious, and natural, approach to creating a hygienic pool. A cleaning crew and a vacuum system help to keep the surface of the pool clean, as well. The pool itself consists of 21,000 square feet of swimming space and features shallow and deep ends, a wading pool, diving area, and lap area.
Since the pool relies on natural processes for filtration, the water looks more akin to to a lake or pond than the crystal clear pools to which most Americans are accustomed. It can take some getting used to for some swimmers. The benefits are probably worth it, though. Taking chlorine out of the equation eliminates many of the irritating side effects of a traditional pool such as red eyes, dry hair and skin, and bleached swimsuits.
Pools like Webber have been popular in Europe for some time. The first natural pools were built in Austria and Germany in the 1980s. Currently, there are 20,000 natural pools in Europe, 100 of which are public pools in Germany. In the U.S., natural pools have been mostly reserved for a handful of well-off private citizens. Opening natural pools to the public has been difficult due to a number of state-mandated regulations on the use of chemicals to treat bacteria.
The Webber project certainly faced its share of obstacles.
The pool was supposed to open in 2013, but construction delays, equipment failure, unexpected wildlife migrations, and other issues pushed the completion date to 2015. There have been financial issues as well. When the project started the pool was estimated to cost around $4 million. However, it was completed for more than $6 million.
Jayne Miller, superintendent of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board, said sometimes you have to pay a price for innovation.
She told Upworthy, “You do something new and innovative like this, there are risks. … But we’re getting a ton of coverage on this nationally, and a lot of people are paying attention. I suspect this will be the beginning of many more natural pools in the U.S.”
With ideas like this, it’s easy to see why Minneapolis and St. Paul have the two top-ranked park systems in the country.
Hopefully, this ground-breaking project will be an example to other states and municipalities around the country!