Minnesota Startup Uses Moss — Yes, Moss — to Keep Pools Clean

CWS Clump-of-Moss_220Moss. We’ve all seen it growing in bogs, on tree trunks, and in-between cracks in the sidewalk.

But, did you ever think that this common plant could potentially revolutionize an entire industry?

Enter David Knighton, MD, co-founder and CEO of the Minnesota-based startup, Creative Water Solutions. Knighton, a physician, inventor and entrepreneur–who also happens to be an amateur pilot–was flying a plane to northern Minnesota when he noticed the lakes becoming clearer and cleaner as he traveled northward. Earlier, he had read an article about how moss was used to treat wounds in World War I. It all got him to thinking:

Could the sphagnum moss that’s native throughout northern Minnesota be responsible for keeping the lakes so crystal clear? And, if so, could it do the same for pools and spas?

Eight years and $4 million later, Knighton believes the answer to that question is an emphatic “Yes.”

Creative Water Solutions now offers a patented water treatment system that keeps pools and spas clean using sphagnum moss.  In laboratory tests, moss inhibits biofilm, which forms when bacteria/fungi/algae/debris adheres to surfaces in a watery environment. (Need an example? Think of the plaque on your teeth –that’s biofilm.) But, if the bacteria in a pool can’t clump together to form biofilm, it is much more vulnerable to chlorine. That means pools that use Creative Water Solutions’ moss-based system require dramatically less chlorine and other harsh chemicals.

The sphagnum moss system has been available for residential pool and spa owners for a few years, but this summer, Creative Water Solutions completed its first-ever commercial-scale test. Municipal pools in St.Paul used the system, and the results were impressive.

Swimmers reported less eye-burning chlorination, and they liked the feel of the water. City officials saw a significant reduction in the use of chlorine and cyanuric acid (a chlorine stabilizer), a drop in maintenance required due to reduction in backwashing and algae growth, less chemical corrosion of pipes, heaters, pumps and liners, and less costly repairs.

Plus, according to Knighton, the test pools in St. Paul needed backwashing only once every two weeks, instead of the typical two times each week. Considering that these pools hold  about 440,000 gallons of water and that about 10 percent of that is lost every time they backwash the filters, the reduction in water use is also significant, he explains.

Creative Water Solutions tested dozens of moss types, but found only two species that work. The particular type of sphagnum moss is found throughout northern Minnesota, southern Canada, and in New Zealand. Currently, the company has to import moss from New Zealand, where it is farmed commercially-–and sustainably-–for orchid cultivation. But Knighton is hoping that Creative Water Solutions can kick-start a sustainable sphagnum moss industry closer to home.

“Done correctly, moss farming is sustainable for the rest of the planet’s life,” he says. “The bog reproduces itself after harvesting.”

What’s more, it only takes six grams of sphagnum moss to treat 1,000 gallons of water. The moss is sterilized, processed, and pressed into thin, dry wafers that expand when added to a pool or spa filtration system.

“Most solutions are out there (in Nature). We just haven’t looked hard enough,” Knighton says, adding that he is already at work on a sphagnum moss-based treatment system for domestic water use, too.

“More and more pool and spa owners, sellers and service companies are discovering how effective and healthier the PoolNaturally and SpaNaturally products really are, not only for themselves and their families, but for the better upkeep of their hardware and the environment,” he says. “There’s no need to keep throwing chemicals at chemicals to enjoy your pool or spa.”

As a corporate content specialist and a ghostwriter for C-level executives, Kathryn's work appears at Forbes, Industry Week and other leading trade publications and websites. She focuses on topics related to science, business sustainability, supply chain risk management and marketing. Find out more about Kathryn at www.CorporateWriter4Hire.com . You can follow Kathryn on Twitter: @CorpWriter4Hire.

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