How to 'green' your backyard pool

G Magazine

Worried about the environmental impact of your backyard swimming pool? Slip on a pool cover, slop in some rainwater and slap a solar array on your roof.


Credit: iStockphoto

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While swimming is a great form of exercise, the downside is that pools require vast amounts of water. Just to fill the average backyard pool takes 50,000 litres- and that's roughly one third of the water used by an average person in a year.

Even more water is needed for regular top-ups. All up, a home with a pool uses 10 per cent more water than a home without a pool.

But surprisingly, water isn't the only conservation concern - swimming pools are energy intensive too. According to the NSW Government, running a pool pump will increase your household energy use by 17 per cent and that's not including energy needed for pool heating.

So does this mean we should drain our swimming pools? Has the backyard pool become an extravagant luxury this planet can no longer afford? Actually, there's a surprising amount we can do to cut down on pool energy and water use.

Slash water wastage

An uncovered pool can lose up to one-and-a-half times its total volume in one year through evaporation. In Sydney and Brisbane, rainfall can come close to replacing half the evaporation, assuming that it falls at the right time and in the right amounts so the pool doesn't overflow. Yet in a dry city like Perth, rain compensates for only 10 per cent of the water lost.

There is one really simple way to save water - invest in a pool cover and reduce evaporation by up to 97 percent. For an outlay of $500 - $1,500 you can purchase a cover that will also prevent heat loss at night, thereby extending the swimming season and saving on heating costs.

As an added bonus, covers also keep leaves and dirt out of the pool and reduce the evaporation of the chemicals used to keep the pool clean.

"The important thing to consider when buying a cover is how easy is it to use" says Manfred Wiesemes, president of the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of NSW. "A cover with a roller mechanism is easier to use."

The type of filter you use can also make a big difference to water efficiency. Sand filters can waste up to 15,000 litres of water each year because they require backwashing to clean the filter. Cartridge filters, on the other hand, can be cleaned with a quick rinse from the hose, saving water and reducing the amount of pool chemicals dumped into the sewer.

Finally, make sure you have no leaks - one drip per second adds up to 7,000 wasted litres a year. To find out if your pool leaks, Manfred Wiesemes recommends the following method:

"Put a bucket on a submerged step of your pool and fill it to the water level of the pool. Leave [it] overnight. If the pool level is lower than the bucket you have a leak."

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