Traditionally, swimming pools have never been a source of water and energy savings. Sure, they're fun to have and provide a place to cool off in hot weather, but for the most part, they represent a drain on water supplies and a fairly useless component of a home. However, with droughts striking across the country, many Americans are turning to an innovative solution: turning their unused outdoor pools into miniature farms, complete with greenhouses, chicken coops and fish ponds.
The concept was originally developed in 2009 by Arizona residents Danielle and Dennis McClung, who had bought a new home and were faced with the decision of what to do with the cracked, run-down pool in the backyard. They added a greenhouse frame over the top of the pool, filled the deep end with water for tilapia to swim in, added chickens that roost over the water, and started growing produce with water pumped out of the fish pond. Chicken excrement provides an excellent fertilizer for the duckweed that grows in the pond, which in turn feeds the chickens.
The McClungs' swimming pool pond provides the vast majority of the food they eat. The couple started a meetup group that eventually grew into a nonprofit organization called Garden Pool, whose mission is to teach others how to replicate the self-sustaining agricultural methods used in the McClungs' original pool garden. However, all this success didn't come without a lot of botched attempts along the way. "We spent a lot of time falling on our faces. We'd put one fire out with another," Dennis McClung told Modern Farmer magazine.