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Pool Conversion: Creating a Freshwater Ecosystem

— by Caragh

By Jen Kreusser

There are many people in Alice Springs who are considering turning their once-loved swimming pool into an oasis of a different variety, or perhaps installing an old child sand pit or pool, in the hope of creating a self-sustaining water-feature and extending the attraction to a diverse range of feathered visitors. Smaller features can be created by using old bathtubs or similar, which I have seen to be effective. The question is: How to do this in an arid, urban backyard?

Call out to our readers: We would like to hear from LfW members that have done this, or at least experimented with the concept – get in touch!

In the first instance, it largely depends on what your ambitions are – and the space and resources you have available. In order for the water to be attractive for birds and other animals to visit, access will need to be created. Creating shallow areas for waterbirds to stand and placement of low branches (old or living) near the water’s edge will encourage birds to come and drink.

Pros: Once established, it is likely to be visually aesthetic – creating a unique habitat for residents to enjoy and observe. It is also an opportunity to grow a variety of water plants (which will attract a greater diversity of insects, birds, frogs and reptiles).

Cons: Available fresh water is likely to attract predators, especially in hot dry summers (such as unwanted cats and snakes). Evaporation rates during summer are significant (similar to a regular swimming pool) and regular additions of water would be required (tank water is best).

It may take some time to establish and convert the pool into a safe and healthy water supply. Like many water ecosystems, it’s about balance! Keeping onto the balance of microorganisms (algae, bacteria) will be important as time goes on and you may wish to consider purchasing a pH testing kit to help. We are not experts on creating freshwater systems, though we would really love to hear from our members that have created these and we can share more in our next newsletter.

Of course, if you are a lover of the arid zone, you may wish to consider filling in the swimming pool space for creating a new arid (dry) landscape feature such as a sand dune or rocky garden. Remember, when considering which plants to include in the space it’s worth checking out Native Plants for Central Australian Gardens (Forth & Vinter, 2007).

– Jen Kreusser