Posted June 11, 2015 by Gabriel Posternak

More pools – a way to fight drought?

In what most definitely seems as a counterintuitive recommendation, the California Pool and Spa Association (CPSA) has recently launched a “drought education” campaign in which it suggests people should be installing more pools to save water. I know what you’re thinking, but what first appears as nonsensical advice has, in fact, its reasons.

The Let’s Pool Together campaign isn't exactly recent, but it has gained some renewed attention the past week as it was re-introduced. It claims that a well-maintained pool needs less water than irrigated lawns. According to the studies cited by the CPSA, swimming pools use approximately half the water needed to keep a lawn green in the same period of time. So, the campaign encourages people to replace their lawns with pools to reduce their water use.

As anyone would have expected, the campaign is already causing controversy, with other water experts chiming in to provide some insights. Thus, some are claiming that traditional lawns and residential pools use roughly the same amount of water but that there might be differences in water consumption depending on the pool’s size, age and maintenance.

CPSA Chairman Mike Geremia defends the association’s position by arguing that “pools and spas often replace traditional lawns, which are very water-intensive, every pool and spa actually saves thousands of gallons of water per year.” For his part, John Norwood, president of the CPSA, said to the Associated Press that the association isn’t “saying, 'Solve the drought, put in a pool,' but the bottom line is people who put in a pool are making a decision to do something more water efficient with their backyard. They're saving water." It makes sense in certain way but the issue is far from being that simple.

First of all, there’s the cost issue, which obviously undermines the goal of this campaign – to rip out lawns to install pools. But that’s not all. Given how much space a swimming pool can actually take, installing it for the sake of conserving water doesn’t feel like the most suitable alternative. In fact, when compared with other options (replace a lush lawn with drought tolerant landscaping or with an orchard), the swimming pool way starts to pale.

Regardless of how you feel about the Let’s Pool Together campaign, it does offer some useful advice to people that already own one and haven’t taken steps to ensure they are well maintained: installing a pool cover to reduce evaporation, reducing the heat of heating pools to prevent evaporation, getting rid of water features, cleaning pools regularly and checking them for leaks. While all of these tips sound right, the campaign also recommends to minimize splashing, which seems kind of hard for summer kids looking for some.

With pool restrictions already in place in some cities and water-preserving measures starting to get tougher, the Let’s Pool Together campaign feels more like a defensive plan than a genuine well-thought education program to help fight drought. At least, we have to congratulate them for bringing the issue to the table and for giving us the opportunity to discuss about it. What do you think?

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