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  1. Not very long ago, private swimming pools belonged to the domain of the wealthy; until the middle of the last century, they were out of reach of the average citizen. Today, approximately eight million American homes display this amenity. As more and more homeowners throughout the country find swimming pools an affordable and attractive addition to their lives, another trend is developing. Recognizing the vital importance of conservation to the health of our planet, individuals are making eco-conscious decisions when implementing pools in their homes. Read on to see some of the ways they do this. Sun Power Solar energy is capable of more than heating your home and providing electrical power. Solar panels can warm pool water and fuel equipment. A solar swimming pool cover is an option for those whose budgets do not allow a full-fledged system: it keeps water debris-free and heats it at the same time. You can even harness the power of the sun to help keep your private swimming hole bacteria-free: ozone sterilization systems transform oxygen into germ-killing ozone. The Right Equipment Devices like variable speed pumps and in-floor cleaning systems are big energy savers. The former efficiently circulates the water, and the latter performs this task while keeping your pool clean and distributing heat from solar panels. And since equipment need not be running constantly, especially during cooler months, timers are essential. A smartphone or computer application enables you to run pool apparatus from anywhere, eliminating its energy-draining use when not needed. Your family members can start up the equipment remotely so the pool will be ready when you are. Salt water Oceans have a built-in mechanism to keep algae and bacteria at bay: salt water systems. In recent years, pool owners have been utilizing saline to achieve the same result. A chlorine generator cell transforms ordinary table salt into chlorine, which reverts back into its original, non-polluting form. Owners of traditional pools can easily make the switch to saline, and using less costly salt instead of chemicals helps offset the initial expense. Maintenance is simple: clean the chlorine cell annually and add salt to the water every month. The benefits go beyond keeping your pool bacteria- and algae-free: swimmers are more buoyant in salt water (making water exercise even more pleasant), there is no chlorine to irritate eyes, and skin remains soft rather than becoming prune-like. Natural Swimming Imagine a pond in your back yard. Natural pools feature sides that slope and a variety of plants that are more than pleasing to the eyes. Greenery like sphagnum moss removes bacteria from the water and can be used for compost. (It works so well that the University of Maryland uses it in indoor pools.) Plants infuse the water with oxygen, promote healthy bacteria that take care of debris and undesirable organisms, and provide a habitat for water wildlife. Use local varieties—they need less water and maintenance—as a windbreak to limit water evaporation. Be sure to place filtering plants away from the swimming area and all greenery where they will not shed into the pool. Starting natural pools is costly but, once they are fully functional, these ponds are virtually maintenance-free and require no chemicals to keep the water clean. And no matter what type of pool graces your domain, rainwater can be used to top it off as needed. It takes only a little effort to create an oasis that is more than refreshing and a source of beneficial exercise. An eco-friendly pool saves money, reduces water use, conserves energy, and creates a home for local wildlife. It’s a win-win situation for you, your family, your community, and our planet.