Swimming pools and the environment. Is your pool eco-friendly?

Photo courtesy of Miguel Mc Conell at Flickr.com.

A resort in Chile just finished building the biggest swimming pool in the world– it’s a kilometer long and big enough for sailboats! The crazy thing is that it’s only about 100 feet away from the ocean. If somebody wants to go sailing, why not walk down to the beach and do the real thing?

Photo courtesy of Naked [ø] at Flickr.com.

The environmental impact of swimming pools is stunning, and mega-pools are only the tip of the iceberg. Sure, they’re not as easy to see from orbit, but the volume of water in backyard pools adds up too. More and more people are moving into homes with pools our adding pools to their existing homes. “In 1950, Americans owned only 2,500 private residential swimming pools; by 1970 they owned 713,000.” There are more than 7 million private swimming pools in America today.

Photo courtesy of nina_theevilone at Flickr.com.

As you may know, pools use a lot of water to fill and maintain. For example, the typical uncovered pool in Arizona loses 4 to 6 feet of water a year to evaporation. Since water supplies are running low throughout the country, it would help if more people used pool covers to reduce evaporation and conserve water. Chemicals also evaporate away and pool covers reduce the need for additional chemicals too.

Pool covers reduce the amount of make-up water needed by 30 to 50 percent and reduce chemical consumption by 35 to 60 percent. Reflective pool covers can also be used to reduce the amount of light reflected by the average pool (a significant factor in urban heat islands). In cold areas of the country, dark pool covers are useful in reducing heating costs (because they warm up in sunlight). Oh, and properly designed pool covers can even prevent children and small animals from drowning in the pool!

If you have a pool, here are 8 ways to conserve water and electricity:

1.) Install a pool cover. As much as 70 percent of a pool’s heat loss is caused by evaporation. It also will keep your pool or spa cleaner and reduce the need to add chemicals.

2.) Reduce your pool’s water temperature and the number of months you heat your pool. This lower energy use will reduce your carbon footprint and cut your bill down to size.

3.) Keep your pool’s cleaning and heating equipment clean and lubricated . Well maintained equipment is more efficient and will last longer before it needs to be replaced.

4.) Switch your pool filter and sweeper operations to off-peak hours. When it’s hot outside, air conditioners suck a lot of power out of the grid. During these peak times, many electric companies have to run dirty backup generators and they also charge higher prices. If you have a time-of-use meter, running your pool equipment only during off-peak hours can save you money. Off-peak times are generally between 6 p.m. and noon weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday.

5.) Install a new water-saving pool filter. A single backflushing with a traditional filter uses 180 to 250 gallons of water. You can see the different types of pool filters that are available online.

6.) Shorten the operating time for your swimming pool filter and use the automatic cleaning sweep. In the winter, two hours a day of filtering could cut your filter’s energy use by 40 percent to 50 percent, without any noticeable difference in clarity or sanitation.

7.) Create a windbreak around your pool with native plants and shrubs. This wind break will prevent breezes from reaching your pool and keep hot, dry air from sucking away moisture. It also makes the pool a more attractive and enjoyabe place to relax.

8.) Use a “green” pool cleaning service. The traditional way to clean a pool is to drain all the water, acid wash the lining, and then refill the pool with thousands of gallons of additional water. In drought stricken Phoenix, a company came up with a way to save water during the cleaning process! Calsaway Pool Service pioneered a cleaning method that filters the pools contents and then pours the water back in! Their process also takes less time, and because it conserves 10,000-30,000 gallons of water per pool, it offers massive cost savings too.

There are even bigger changes you can make to you pool to save water, reduce chemicals, and minimize electric costs. Salt water pools are one option – they have slightly lower evaporation rates and use fewer chemicals than other pools. Whenever I use a pool with heavy chlorine, I always have to go take a shower to keep my hair from turning green. So, salt water pools reduce water use in that way too!

Photo courtesy of milksss ×Þ at Flickr.com.

You can even do away with your pool altogether! Drain that pool, and you’ve got a half-pipe for skateboarding…

Photo courtesy of db_cooper at Flickr.com.

…or an oversized planter for gardening! If your yard doesn’t have room for a vegetable garden, think about streamlining by filling your pool with soil. You don’t even have to tear out the concrete lining, just add dirt and – viola! – you’ve suddenly got the biggest planter on the block (although you may want to layer the bottom with crushed rock to ensure proper drainage)!

Photo courtesy of larry st at Flickr.com.