Earlier this month I submitted an article to Mother Earth News magazine about our natural earthbag pool and about a more conventional one that one of my students built. As I often point out, one of the truly great things about earthbag building is the incredible variety of things that can be built with them, this includes pools! While taking a dip in cool water may not be the first thing on our minds smack dab in the middle of winter, the cold and grey will undoubtedly give way to the balmy and sunny, and we’ll be looking for ways to beat the heat. An earthbag pool is a great way to do this and at only at a fraction of the cost of a concrete pool.
I had the desire to build a pool at our intentional community since the very beginning. We tried a couple of other arrangements to cool off, including taking a dip in nearby creeks (brrrrr!) and keeping a stock tank for dipping (brrrrr!) but in 2019 we finally scheduled a workshop to build a proper pool. Most of the pool space was made by a neighbor with a backhoe. He dug out the basic shape we wanted. It is good to terrace the inside of a pool and not have too many slants as these will become slipping points once it’s full and there is some algae growth.
We only had to add a couple of rows of earthbags to build the sides up to the depth we wanted. We hammered rebar through them to give them some extra support (water exerts a lot of pressure), though we could have achieved the same effect by backfilling against them.
We had our four inch drainpipe in place already so all we had to do, after we put the liner on, was to assemble the overflow and drain. The overflow sets the exact depth you want the pool to be. Below is an illustration of how we did ours.
Since our pool is spring fed, we don’t have to worry about chlorine or sterilizing the water. There is a good bit of algae growth but a weekly (or so) cleaning takes care of that. The drain plug at the bottom of the pool makes the cleaning fairly easy.
The most expensive part of our natural pool was the HDRPE (high density reinforced polyethylene) liner. It’s claimed that it has a service life of 400 plus years. It cost around $550 and saved tons of concrete when compared to a traditional inground pool.
The total cost of our pool was under $900. Compare that to what inground pools cost these days. I’m going to guess that they’re generally tens of thousands of dollars.
Once again, earthbags are a great way to build high-quality, low-cost structures using mostly the dirt from under our feet (99.75% by weight and volume). A truly remarkable technology with almost endless applications!
Thanks for reading! Morgan