Swimming may be returning to Melbourne’s polluted Yarra River… kind of

The addition of a pool to the Yarra may help improve people’s perception of the river and act as the impetus to an increase in support for improving its water quality.

June 09, 2016 |

Rendering courtesy Studio Octopi

Rivers are often times the more utilitarian of the different types of bodies of water. Oceans and lakes are thought of as fun places to partake in water sports, go for a swim, or just relax on their sandy beaches, and ponds are seen as serene and relaxing spots to go fishing or to sit back and enjoy the wildlife. Meanwhile, rivers are often viewed as the highways of the water world; they are connectors and pathways to something bigger and better. Boats and barges travel up and down them as they make their way to or from an ocean or lake leading to heavy traffic and plenty of pollution. 

Sure, maybe we walk along riverwalks or enjoy lunch on an outdoor patio where the rushing water can be heard, but, thanks to the heavy water traffic and pollution, rivers are often only enjoyed as ambiance, not as a place to actually take a dip and cool down on a hot summer day.

Some cities, however, are trying to return these heavily polluted and trafficked rivers back into swimmable destinations for the enjoyment of locals and visitors alike. New York has a proposed floating pool for one of its rivers and river pools already exist in cities like Zurich, Berlin, and Paris, and now, the Yarra River in Melbourne, Australia is looking to join this list.

According to inhabitat.com, the non-profit organization Yarra Swim Co. is looking to make the heavily polluted Yarra River swimmable once more. One of the first major steps they are taking to achieve this goal is to work with Arup to develop a Yarra River pool. While, technically, swimming in the pool wouldn’t be the same thing as swimming in the Yarra, it would be the first step in bringing swimming back to the waterway. 

The plans call for a self-contained pool that floats in the Yarra River, however, Arup and Yarra Swim Co. are looking into ways to filter and clean the surrounding water so that it can be used to supply the water in the pool, which is kind of like swimming in the river itself, right? Currently, Arup says there is a patent pending for this type of technology.

Yarra Swim Co. hopes the pool will help to change public opinion about the polluted waterway and be the push needed to rally people around the idea of cleaning the river for good. Ultimately, Yarra Swim Co. hopes the river can be cleaned thoroughly enough so the race to Prince's Bridge, which was once one of the largest swimming competitions in the world, can once again be held.

Funds to build the pool, which, in Australian dollars would cost around $6 and $8 million, may be raised through a combination of crowdfunding, sponsorships, and grants. If all goes according to plan, the pool could be open to the public by 2019 or 2020.

So while people may not be swimming in the Yarra anytime in the near future (at least, not without imbibing in a few rounds of liquid courage first), the pool, especially if the patent pending technology works, could be the first step in the overall process of making the Yarra River swimmable once again.


Photo Credit: Daderot, Wikimedia Commons

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