Pool to Pond – converting backyard swimming pools to ponds for biodiversity

Key words: urban wildlife, backyard habitats, environmental education, fish conservation

Peter Clarke

Since 2007 Ku-ring-gai Council in northern Sydney, NSW, has assisted residents in converting their unwanted swimming pools into ponds. The Pool to Pond program has assisted over 40 households with the conversion by supplying technical advice, native fish and native aquatic plants.   The residents often use exotic aquatic plants alongside the native plants provided by Council and, although natives are preferred, the exotics nevertheless provide useful habitat.

Fig 1 Pool converted to pond, Shirley Rd Roseville

Converting a swimming pool into a pond is an eco-friendly and cost effective alternative to ongoing maintenance or removing a pool altogether. Once converted, the ponds become local biodiversity hot spots, attracting a wide range of wildlife including birds, ducks and frogs.  The water quality of ponds is well within Australian recreational standards and is far above the quality found in Ku-ring-gai streams (Ian Wright, University of Western Sydney, 2010, pers. comm.).

Many people interested in the idea were concerned about mosquitoes.  Fortunately this is not a problem because, out of the approximately 60 mosquito species that live in the Sydney area, only three or four are considered pests.  These pest species prefer shallow, ephemeral water and dislike living in depths greater than 30cm.

Pool converted to pond, Gordon NSW

The motivation for the over 40 or so pools converted to date are many and varied.  Advantages to householders are reported to include the following.

  1. The conversion is reversible.
  2. The ponds can still be used for refreshing ‘dips’ and provide a peaceful reflective place
  3. A considerable reduction of the household energy bill is achieved by not running the pool pump and filter. (Saving up to $1,000 and avoiding release of approximately 400 tons of greenhouse gases.)
  4. A pond will also enhance household sustainability by no longer requiring the use of toxic chemicals. It also provides water for garden irrigation, car washing etc.
  5. Maintaining a pond is not labour or capital intensive.
  6. Ponds are a very useful educational resource; for example children can use dip nets to collect a wide range of aquatic wildlife.
  7. Pool to Pond allows people to become custodians of a species of threatened native fish in their pond.  (Species such as Rainbow fish and Gudgeons from genetically significant populations have been used in this initiative and have proven to be extremely fecund.)

Contact: Peter Clarke, Community Volunteer Programs Coordinator, Ku-ring-gai Council, Tel: +61 2 94240 811, Mobile: 0418 277099, Email: clarkep@kmc.nsw.gov.au

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