In recent decades, natural swimming pools (NSPs) have gained popularity in Europe, especially in Germany and Austria. NSPs differ from swimming pools in that they utilize biological treatment processes based on wetland processes with no disinfection residual. However, data are missing on the specific log-reduction performance of NSPs to address enteric virus, bacteria, and parasitic protozoa removal considered necessary to meet the North American risk-based benchmark (<35 illnesses per 1,000 swimming events) set by the U.S. EPA for voluntary swimming. In this study, we examined Canada's first NSP at Borden Park, Edmonton, Canada, to address the following three questions: (1) Given normal faecal shedding rates by bathers, what is the total log reduction (TLR) theoretically needed to meet the EPA benchmark? (2) what is the in-situ performance of the NSP based on spiking suitable microbial surrogates (MS2 coliphage, Enterococcus faecalis, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae [bakers' yeast])? and (3) how much time is required to reach acceptable bather risk levels under different representative volume-turnover rates? A reverse-quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) revealed that of the four reference pathogens selected (Norovirus, Campylobacter, Cryptosporidium, and Giardia), only Norovirus was estimated to exceed the risk benchmark at the 50th, 75th, and 95th percentiles, while Campylobacter was the only other reference pathogen to exceed at the 95th percentile. Log-reduction values (LRVs) were similar to previous reports for bacterial indicators, and novel LRVs were estimated for the other two surrogates. A key finding was that more than 24 h treatment time would be necessary to provide acceptable bather protection following heavy bather use (378 bathers/day for main pool and 26 bathers/day for children's pool), due to the mixing dynamics of the treated water diluting out possible residual pool faecal contamination. The theoretical maximum number of people in the pool per day to maintain USEPA's 35 gastro cases in 1,000 swimming events was 113, 47, and 8, at the 50th, 75th, and 95th percentiles. Further, the use of ultra-violet disinfection to the pool return flow had little effect on reducing the treatment time required.


  • QMRA of the first natural swimming pool in Canada.

  • Performance testing of the external biological treatment barriers and UV system at the natural pool using spiked surrogates for enteric pathogens (Norovirus, Cryptosporidium, and Campylobacter).

  • Strategies for reducing enteric pathogen risks, which is driven by the number of infected swimmers, under EPA guidelines’ threshold level for recreational water use.

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Author notes

Authors contributed equally to the study.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Licence (CC BY 4.0), which permits copying, adaptation and redistribution, provided the original work is properly cited (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Supplementary data