Sunday, September 14, 2014

Counterintuitive - Swimming Pools And Drought

"As California's drought worsens, swimming pools have become a target for those who think the classic backyard oasis wastes water. Some water districts have prohibited new pools from being filled and have limited how much water existing pools can use."  From the  LA Times 

I'm in LA right now.  California is in a severe drought.
"With California facing one of the most severe droughts on record, Governor Brown declared a drought State of Emergency in January and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages."
 California's first seven months of 2014 have been the hottest on record.  And to make the point, at 10 am today it was already 88˚F downtown with 25% humidity. Now, at 11 am, it's 93˚.   Fire danger is high. 

TWater levels are low.   The state of California has been taking steps to get water consumers to reduce their water usage. 

Swimming pools would seem to be a slap in the face to everyone trying to save water. 

But the the LA Times article headline actually is:
"Water agencies are learning pools aren't a big factor during drought"
The article tells us (in part):
"Analyses by various water districts, along with scientific studies, conclude that pools and their surrounding hardscapes use about the same amount of water as a lawn of the same size. Over time, pools might even use less water. With pool covers, experts say water evaporation can be cut by almost half, making pools significantly less wasteful than grass and about as efficient as drought-tolerant landscaping."
"Facing complaints over a recent ban on filling pools, the Santa Margarita Water District conducted its own water-use analysis. It found that pools require thousands of gallons of water to fill initially, but they use about 8,000 gallons less water than a traditional landscape after that. By the third year, the analysis found, the savings add up, and a pool's cumulative water use falls below that of a lawn."
 I always like it when things we think are so obvious turn out not to be true.  But also, let's be careful with this as well.   The article doesn't tell us the specific 'scientific studies' but it does mention the pool lobby was involved.
"At least two California water distributors have rolled back pool-filling limitations after being contacted by the pool lobby and crunching the numbers." 
Whose numbers did they crunch?  The pool lobby's?   Compared to green lawns, pools might use less water (after three years), but there are relatively few green lawns left as water restrictions are in effect.  And drought-tolerant landscaping probably is more environmentally friendly and heat reducing than the cement that surrounds most backyard pools.  And their calculations seem to assume that people conscientiously use their pool covers when the pools are not in use.  I suspect that isn't the case. 

While looking for the scientific studies online, I found a more thorough San Gabriel Valley Tribune  article on this back in July with an aerial view of pools.

ISPACA (International Swimming Pool and Automatic Cover Association) has a list of studies that shows pool covers save energy and water, but most seem to be focused on the energy savings.  A US Department of Energy study they list does also say there are water savings, but doesn't compare the savings to lawns.  


  1. We are not in a drought area but have a pool.
    I hate to waste water. We have 3 rain barrels for our garden needs.
    We fill our pool from our roof, diverting the gutter into the pool with netting on the end to catch debris. We use a solar cover to maintain heat and conserve H2O.
    Also made a solar heater from black garden hose!
    There are ways to be responsible, save money and have fun!

  2. Anon, there are so many ways we waste water and energy because our infrastructure is designed to make it easy and make our use invisible. That is we don't see the kilowatts or gallons ticking away. Your examples show how relatively easy it is to save if you really want to. Thanks. I'm going to hang up some laundry outside now, because my mom doesn't have a dryer.


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