Who knew the backyard swimming pool or spa could turn your environmental footprint into a ruinously large stomp of reckless water and energy use?
“The water use of a pool owner could be 30 per cent higher than the average,” says Kinesis environment consultant Bruce Taper.
But all is not lost. Savewater Alliance chief Nigel Finney says there IS such a thing as a water-neutral pool, provided the pool owner takes steps to ameliorate the resource guzzling.
Most swimming pools require 50,000 litres of water to fill and could lose as much as 20,000 litres each year to evaporation and backwashing, according to the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of NSW. “Covering the pool with a blanket is the best thing you can do,” Finney says.
Pool covers or blankets – which cost between $500 and $1500 – are mandatory in some areas and will not only prevent evaporation and water loss, but also reduce the amount of chemicals needed to treat the water. The blanket has the added bonus of saving energy, as pumps and filters don’t need to be turned on as often.
Finney also suggests installing a cheap stormwater diversion device to top up the swimming pool with water collected from the roof of the house.
“It costs less than a hundred bucks to buy one of these things from the hardware and connect it with a hose into your pool,” he says. “Running the water into a rainwater tank and storing it is better.”
Lastly, he says installing new cartridge filters to replace old sand filters – which require extensive backwashing – will save hundreds of litres of water a year.
Energy Australia’s efficiency expert Paul Myors says spas and heated pools are massive energy guzzlers, with water-heating bills of $1000 a year or more not uncommon.
“That’s a lot of greenhouse gas emissions,” he says. Solar is the cheapest form of heating, but is not as instant as gas heating or electric heat pump. He suggests buying Green Power to offset the emissions, and running the heating system only when absolutely necessary.
This article first appeared in House & Garden magazine.