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Crystal Lagoons Undertakes Major U.S. Expansion

Crystal Lagoons, a company that specializes in mixed-use developments anchored by artificial lagoons, is planning to expand its footprint in the United States. The brand currently has five U.S. lagoon communities, with seven more planned for completion this year.

The Crystal Lagoon in Prosper, Texas

Crystal Lagoons' artificial lagoons allow landlocked areas to have a water-oriented amenity that, when the weather is warm at least, mimics a beachfront location. Most of its locations are outside the United States.

The company partners with residential developers to create its lagoons, but also says lagoons can be located adjacent to retail properties, golf courses, amusement parks and other places where the public gathers.

“We’ve got 30 signed projects, and it’s really been kind of an inflection curve in the last couple of years,” Crystal Lagoons Vice President Eric Cherasia told CNBC.

At the heart of the business is technology that Crystal Lagoons uses to keep sizable artificial bodies of water clean enough for recreational use.

Crystal Lagoons licenses the technology with development partners, providing architectural designs and engineering specifications, along with maintenance personnel training. For its partners, the artificial lagoons become a major amenity for their nearby residential and commercial properties.

In metro Dallas-Fort Worth, for example, the first Caribbean-like Crystal Lagoon opened in that market last summer, as part of Tellus Group's Windsong Ranch residential community.

"I think there were a lot of skeptics that thought [when] they read about it, heard about it, that it couldn’t be done," Tellus Group partner David Blom told Bisnow. "And then, when they actually touch it, see it and sink their toes into the sand and jump into the water, they are amazed."

The existing U.S. Crystal Lagoons communities are in Texas and Florida. When this year's raft of developments are finished, there will also be communities in California and Pennsylvania, including one that is part of a former industrial site redevelopment on Pittsburgh (in winter, the lagoon becomes a skating rink).

Over the course of about six years during the 2000s, Chilean biochemist and real estate developer Fernando Fischmann devised a system to keep an artificial lagoon clean enough for recreational use. His original motive was real estate-related: He wanted to add value in the form of a water amenity to his San Alfonso del Mar resort in Chile.

The water treatment technology uses an array of sensors, about 400 per acre, to monitor algae and bacteria growth. When the levels of those organisms is too high, the system injects chlorine and lime to control their levels, Popular Mechanics reports. The system also uses ultrasonic pulses to cause algae to bunch up, making it easier to deal with.

The goal of the Crystal Lagoons tech is to apply treatment more efficiently than standard water filtrating systems, thus making it more cost-efficient. Using standard systems to clean a body of water as large as a Crystal Lagoon, which is 6,000 times larger than a conventional swimming pool, in the case of San Alfonso del Mar, isn't economically feasible.

Since then, Fischmann has been overseeing the expansion of the concept, mostly in Latin America and the Middle East.