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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Aqua-Scapes Offers Natura Ecosystem Pools: Living Pools Transform Backyards

Apr 03, 2015 02:27AM ● By Nicole Miale

While the words “swimming pool” may evoke an inviting image of glistening, crystalline blue water shining in the sun, the toxicity of that clear blue water has been a concern for years. There is a growing movement away from chemical-laden sparkling waters to healthier water that, although a bit murkier, is inhabited by nature’s own cleaners: plants, soils, animals and friendly bacteria.

Vincenzo Torcasio has been in the pool business for 30 years, 18 of those as owner of his own Bethel-based Aqua-Scapes business, formerly located in Danbury. As one of only six Biotop natural pool partners in the United States, his company is at the forefront of a new movement that is changing the pool industry. Anticipating that more people would want a pool with fewer chemicals and a more natural environment, Torcasio asked Biotop five years ago if they would partner with him. The Austria-based company turned him down then, saying the demand for their innovative pools in the U.S. wasn’t there yet – even though in Europe the natural pool has been available for 30 years. A year ago, Biotop relented. “The market in the U.S. has totally flipped, overtaking the European market,” Torcasio explains. “There was no demand for these pools until fairly recently, but I can already see that in a year or two I’ll be doing mostly these pools and a lot less of the conventional style pool.”

Peter Petrich, founder of Biotop, is credited with inventing the concept of the natural pool, which began as his graduate school thesis. Natural swimming pools are self-cleaning pools which combine swimming areas and water gardens or plant zones. The pools have skimmers and pumps that circulate the water through the plant or “regeneration” zones,” where the living plants act as organic cleansers, much as they do in a naturally occurring lake or pond. Friendly bacteria attach to rocks, gravel or tile, creating another biological filter to keep the water clean.

Torcasio says the 100 percent chemical-free aspect of the Biotop approach was what attracted him in the beginning. “There is a whole philosophy and science behind this that is proven and works. Chlorine has been a necessary evil for years,” he explains. “But it’s not a healthy chemical and it does a lot of nasty things. People are becoming more aware of this. They don’t want to be exposed to it and don’t want their kids swimming in it.”

“A traditional pool is sterile and dead,” Torcasio continues. “The chlorine has killed off everything. The water in our pools is literally alive, just like a lake or a pond. It’s very refreshing and clean, without any of the negative effects of chlorine.”

The natural pool supports flora and fauna and, over time, becomes the basis for a new ecosystem in the yard. “Since these pools are natural water, you will have frogs, dragonflies, maybe turtles, swimming in the water with you,” Torcasio says. “That’s part of what makes these pools healthier, the natural environment works together.”

Since the health of the water itself is critically important to the success of the natural pool, sometimes the water is trucked in from a mineral spring in upstate New York. Once the main pool has been filled, the homeowner’s well can be used for simple refills. Torcasio works with architects to design and plan the pools, which can be many shapes, sizes and styles. There are three primary options for the pool setup.

1. The appearance is similar to a regular pool with the filtration plant zone out of sight and not part of the landscape

2. A setup similar to a regular pool but with the filtration plant zone built as a water garden/feature near but not part of the actual pool.

3. The pool and the plant zone are one and the same, with the plants growing in the pool where people swim.

Torcasio was surprised most of his customers have chosen the third option, which is the most natural and least traditional pool of the three. “The people who want this have usually done their homework and they know what they want, which is to have a pool as natural as possible,” he says. “If someone wants crystal clear, blue water, this isn’t the pool for them. It appeals to a different customer.”

The design and size will determine the cost but per square foot the cost is the same as a traditional gunite pool. The difference is that the regeneration zone also has to be factored in – the whole area needed will be somewhat larger. The typical installation timeframe is 2-3 months. Conversion of an existing gunite pool to a natural pool is not a complicated process but Torcasio says sometimes there can be issues of space since the additional regeneration zone must be incorporated into the original layout.

Aqua-Scapes services the tri-state area and Northeast with Biotop Natural pools. Their showroom is located at 23 Francis J. Clarke Cir, Bethel. For more information, call 203-743-7665, email [email protected] or visit AquascapesPool.com. See ad, page 30.

Nicole Miale is publisher/executive editor of Natural Awakenings Fairfield County. Connect with her at [email protected].