Public awareness over the last three years has made South Africans acknowledge that we are a water scarce country, a situation created by both environmental factors and ageing infrastructural issues. It is having a profound effect on many areas of industry and, in turn, the economy and our domestic life. With swimming pools being one of the heaviest consumers of water in the domestic setting – up to 60% of a household’s usage – pool owners are now having to completely rethink how they design, maintain and use their pool, according to PowerPlastics Pool Covers.
“The 2017 / 2018 drought that brought parts of the country to its knees was the turning point for many pool owners in terms of getting their sustainable thinking right and we were pleased to play a large part in delivering the education needed. Pools are a great asset during a drought but they have to be water neutral. The challenge now is keeping it up and we’re not just talking homeowners making small changes here and there. Golf estates and gated communities, gyms and schools, hospitality and safari establishments, BnBs and Airbnbs – by now every pool in the country should have been assessed from a sustainability point of view and covered with either a quality GeoBubble cover or a safety cover where there are children and pets to consider,” says Carolyn Idas of PowerPlastics Pool Covers.
There are a number of issues to consider when it comes to maintaining a pool when water is scarce and / or restricted, and expensive.
Firstly, a pool is an essential part of your water storage on site and water of last resort. During the very worst of a drought, residents turn to their pools as an emergency backup plan, using the pool as a reservoir. In such cases, the less chemicals in the water, the better. The only way to reduce chemical input but still maintain proper water hygiene without an outbreak of algae or mosquitoes is to use a ‘smart’ pool cover such as the EnergyGuard GeoBubble cover which allows for a 50% reduction in chemicals.
Water levels must be maintained in order to run the pump. It is not a good idea to use grey water from the home to top up the pool as the chemicals in recycled household water can play havoc with a pool pump and prematurely age it. They will also degrade a pool cover. The answer here is to keep water IN the pool in the first place.
A knee-jerk reaction when water is rationed is to let the pool sit empty. It may seem logical but it is almost always a very expensive mistake. Left out of service for long periods, components quickly degrade and will need replacing, the pump too. A dry pool’s surface can crack and in some cases the pool shell can lift out of the ground without the weight of the water to bed it down. Repairing cracks, re-painting and re-filling becomes incredibly costly when a pool is brought back into use.
“In each case, it brings one back to one common point – valuing the water we do have and keeping it IN the pool. And a pool cover is pretty much the only way to keep pool water in situ. All pool covers stop evaporation by over 98%. On a typical summer day in South Africa, tests show that the average pool will lose 105 litres a day. Think of all the pools in the country losing that amount of water each day – it is a staggering amount of water being lost and a staggering amount of water that is then being replaced from different sources,” says Idas.
Another water-smart practice that dovetails with pool covers is rainwater harvesting and rainwater storage but this is not always viable when the gutters, tanks and pool just can’t be connected with ease.
“Sometimes it just takes a builder, a pool builder and a pool cover specialist to have a conversation at planning stage to ensure that the intended home and pool can actually support water saving practices. Pools with multiple levels and fancy designs are hard to cover. Fountains waste water and power and cool the water. Rainwater storage tanks need space. Anyone building a new home or hospitality venue these days is thinking about this kind of thing. It is just the reality of South Africa.
On the flip side of the water crisis is the power crisis – another area in which pool covers are an easy solution. A covered pool is a cleaner pool that uses less filtration and less chemicals. Pump time can be reduced by as much as 50% with pool covers such as the EnergyGuard GeoBubble cover.
“The EnergyGuard cover was a pool cover specifically designed in response to the power crises back in 2006 and it has gone on to be an international best seller. Today, using selective transmission material, it allows certain light rays to enter the water too, making it a dual-purpose heating and energy-saving cover, in addition to saving 98% water. It is the smartphone of pool covers.
“If the experience where a Day Zero created a water crisis and pool covers became an essential part of the pool owner’s equipment then there should not be pools that are designed and specified without them. Have you included a pool cover in your most recent specification? Remember, every pool should be covered. It is the right thing to do. There is no denying that there is a strong argument for pool covers. Sustainability aside, the payback period for GeoBubble covers is less than 18 months, the savings on water and power are that significant.
“The Western Cape has already demonstrated that it is possible for a large metropolitan area to drastically cut back on daily water consumption and it was recognised at a global level for its efforts. Going forward, South African architects, designers, quantity surveyors, pool builders and pool owners must remain vigilant about water and power saving. The problems have not gone away,” concludes Idas.