Your Pool and the Drought

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Home swimming pools have been a hot topic during the drought, and now that the dust has settled on the debate a bit it appears that they’re not actually big villains And everyone’s hoping that El Nino will bring lots of much needed rain this year. Even so, California’s water supplies are stretched even in good years so everyone needs to pay attention to water conservation.

Swimming Pool Water Use

During the drought many districts and municipalities have enacted severe restrictions, including prohibiting filling newly constructed pools, draining and refilling existing pools, and even limiting how much water can be used to top-off the depth. But data gathering by various districts as well as scientific studies indicate all that really isn’t absolutely necessary. Especially when you consider that pools and spas are surrounded by decks, walkways, and patios leaving very little space for planting.
A huge “tank” filled with water looks like a hugely wasteful luxury, but once a pool is filled it only uses as much water as a similarly-sized lawn. That makes sense when you know that most usage is due to evaporation at the surface, just like with blades of grass. The California Pool and Spa Association claims that the average home pool uses some 32,000 gallons during its first year then far less after that. A 1,200 square foot lawn (30 by 40 feet) uses some 44,000 gallons a year, so it looks like it saves water! At least when compared to a conventional lawn.
The Santa Margarita Valley Water District estimates more conservatively that once filled a typical home pool uses some 8,000 gallons per year less than a similarly sized lawn so that there’s a net savings after about 3 years. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has reached similar conclusions. So many areas are beginning to relax restrictions on refilling and even allowing new pools to be filled. Placer County (38,000 residents) permitted 75 new installations; their filling took only 0.006% of the county’s water consumption!
If you were told earlier that you couldn’t have a new pool or refill an old one, it’s already time to check again.

Find and Fix Problems

We’re all hoping for good rains this winter, but even once we’re back to normal rainfall patterns Southern California still faces major water shortage problems. We need to reduce pool water use to well below that of a typical lawn. So there’s certainly no excuse to waste. It’s common sense to start with fixing any leaks. Keep an eye on your water bills, and pay attention to how much you need to top-off your pool. Are there any damp spots in the ground? Any loose tiles or cracks in the pool? Any leaks in the plumbing or equipment? A single leak can loose hundreds of gallons every day! If you have an auto-fill system be sure that it’s set correctly and working properly. We’ll talk more about pool leak detection and repair in a later blog.

Water Conservation for Swimming Pools

The single most important measure for reducing water use, and heating fuel use, is installing a pool cover. They also significantly reduce chemical usage. Many people dislike pool covers, but if you take a look at the latest designs now available you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised. And this single item can cut evaporation in half, making your pool or spa as water-conserving as drought-resistant landscaping. That should be everyone’s conservation target. For a 15 by 30 foot swim, savings should be on the order of 100,000 gallons a year, or some 250 gallons a day. So that alone should meet a 30% reduction target!
Here are several other ways to reduce consumption without diminishing your enjoyment. In no particular order….
• Turn off waterfalls and fountains except when entertaining.
• Drain for cleaning and chemistry renewal only when necessary Experts suggest 3-7 years (every 3 months for spas).
• Use fences and landscaping to reduce wind; that lowers evaporation.
• Backwash the filters only when necessary (typically every 3 to 4 months), and only for as long as necessary.
• Turn down down the heating thermostat. That reduces evaporation, energy use, and chlorine use.
• Lower the water level a bit for less splash out.
• Keep your filters and chemistry in tip-top shape. That reduces the need for a drain and refill.
• Plug the overflow line when the pool is in use and when you’re adding water.
• Turn off the tile-spray features on automatic cleaners.
We hope this has given you some good ideas for saving water. Except in the most extreme droughts you can still enjoy the health, relaxation, and entertainment benefits of your own swimming pool and the Inland Empire lifestyle.