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10th Jun 2022

Architect Africa Online

Africa's Leading Architecture Aggregator

Pool covers – helping combat water scarcity in South Africa

A ‘smart’ pool cover such as the EnergyGuard GeoBubble cover allows for a 50% reduction in chemicals and pump time.

Water, or the lack thereof, remains a hot topic in South Africa. Going into summer, Gauteng already faces unprecedented water supply challenges and the water authority is under severe pressure in a landscape whereby the water demand consistently exceeds the water supply. In the Eastern Cape, the metro’s supply dams are only around 12% full. The SA Water Chamber predicts a 17% shortfall of supply against demand by 2030. With swimming pools being a heavy consumer of water in the domestic setting, pool owners have to completely rethink how they design, maintain and use their pool, according to PowerPlastics Pool Covers.

“It is widely acknowledged that South Africa is a water-scarce country, but the water-saving efforts must start at home. Blaming the ageing infrastructure and the drought is not going to change anything. Pool owners in particular need to step up and be a part of the solution. Put simply, if your pool is not covered, you are contributing to the problem,” says Andrew Crafford, Managing Director of PowerPlastics Pool Covers.

“Experience shows that drought can be the turning point in terms of getting sustainable thinking right and we are pleased to play a large part in delivering the consumer education needed when it comes to water-smart pools. Covered pools can actually be a great asset during a drought,” continues Crafford.

There are a number of issues to consider when it comes to maintaining a pool when water is restricted.

Firstly, a pool is an essential part of your water storage on-site and ‘last resort’ water. During the very worst of a drought, residents turn to their pools as an emergency backup plan, using the pool as a reservoir. In such cases, the less chemicals in the water, the better. The only way to reduce chemical input but maintain proper water hygiene without an outbreak of algae or mosquitoes is to use a ‘smart’ pool cover such as the EnergyGuard GeoBubble cover, which allows for a 50% reduction in chemicals.

Water levels must be maintained to run the pump. It is not advisable to use grey water from the home to top up the pool as the chemicals in recycled household water can play havoc with a pool pump and prematurely age it, and they will also degrade a pool cover. The answer here is to keep water IN the pool in the first place.

When water is rationed, letting the pool sit empty may seem obvious, but it is almost always a costly mistake. When left out of service for long periods, components quickly degrade and will need replacing, the pump too. A dry pool’s surface can crack, and in some cases, the pool shell can lift out of the ground without the weight of the water to bed it down.

“In each case, it brings one back to one common point – keeping the water you do have in the pool. All our pool covers stop evaporation by over 98%. On a typical summer day in South Africa, tests show that the average pool will lose 105 litres a day. And all that is needed is a simple pool cover to save water and have a valuable water resource in your home. Consider this versus losing a staggering amount of water to evaporation every day,” says Crafford.

The call to action goes way beyond homeowners making small changes here and there. Golf estates and gated communities, gyms and schools, hospitality and safari establishments, BnBs and Airbnbs – by now every pool in the country should have been assessed from a sustainability point of view and covered with either a quality GeoBubble cover or a safety cover where there are children and pets to consider.

“As a leading pool cover brand, we have consistently promoted water-saving over the past 30 years, but it was only once water was under threat and after the municipal bylaws made pool covers part of their compliance that we saw an uptake in pool covers. If, as a country, we are serious about protecting this precious resource, then let’s ensure that our legislation, local bylaws, private housing estate rules, etc., are aligned and enforce water efficiency requirements by advocating the simple use of a pool cover.

“Perhaps Standards like SANS 10400-XB should insist on pool covers in new homes. Pool covers should also be part of the C40 Cites SA Building program. The goal of this program is to make zero-carbon buildings standard by 2030. Pool covers should be part of green building bylaws for zero carbon emissions. There are many opportunities to use the different frameworks to offset South Africa’s looming Ground Zero on water,” says Crafford.

Another water-smart practice that dovetails with pool covers is rainwater harvesting and rainwater storage but this is not always viable when the gutters and tanks just can’t be connected with ease.

“Sometimes it just takes a builder, a pool builder and a pool cover specialist to have a conversation at planning stage to ensure that the intended home and pool can actually support water-saving practices. Anyone building a new home or hospitality venue these days must think about this kind of thing. It is just the reality of South Africa.”

On the flip side of the water crisis is the power crisis – another area in which pool covers are an easy solution. A covered pool is a cleaner pool that uses less filtration and less chemicals. Pump time can be reduced by as much as 50% with pool covers such as the EnergyGuard GeoBubble cover.

The EnergyGuard cover uses selective transmission to allow certain light rays to enter the water, making it a dual-purpose heating and energy-saving cover. It is the smartphone of pool covers. Sustainability aside, the payback period for GeoBubble covers is less than 18 months, the savings on water and power are that significant.

“In short, living in water-scarce times, pool covers must become an essential part of the pool owner’s standard equipment, and any new pool or refurb should be designed and specified with a pool cover included.

“It is equally important when covering a pool to go with the right brand who consistently focuses on the bigger issues such as sustainability, like PowerPlastics Pool Covers. We have taken the zero carbon footprint stance to heart for many years.

“The Western Cape has already demonstrated that it is possible for a large metropolitan area to drastically cut back on daily water consumption with the right knowledge and water-saving equipment. Going forward, South African architects, designers, quantity surveyors, landscapers, pool builders and pool owners must remain vigilant. The problem is not going away with a good rainy season and it requires a widespread uptake if we as a country are to avoid the economic pitfalls of drought,” concludes Crafford.

Syndicated content from Leading Architecture & Design


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