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Eco-Friendly Pools

How to maintain a more eco-friendly swimming pool

By Dave Huxtable

'Going green' has become one of the fastest growing trends within the past decade. An increasing awareness of the benefits of environmental issues and eco-friendly technology not only has consumers looking for products and services that are kinder to the planet, it has started to change the way swimming pool manufacturers and service providers do business.

Of course, when it comes to pools, green is the last thing they should be—clear, clean water free of algae and other contaminants is a must. There are, however, some environmentally conscious ways of keeping your pool green without sacrificing safety and water quality.

By its very nature, a backyard swimming pool can be considered eco-friendly. After all, by creating an environmental oasis in your own backyard, you spend more vacation time at home, keeping your vehicle off of already busy highways. That said, there are environmental impacts to pool ownership, though they can be better managed with a new wave of eco-friendly options.

The four basic steps for maintaining an environmentally friendly swimming pool are:

  1. Always keep your swimming pool water properly filtered and sanitized;
  2. Keep the pool and surrounding area clean and debris free;
  3. Do not allow water to remain stagnant on top of your winter cover or in the swimming pool; and
  4. Open your pool early in the spring and close it late in the fall.

While adhering to these four rules, there are many specific areas to consider that can enhance the eco-friendliness of your backyard space.

Chemical consumption and conservation

There are two aspects to chemically maintaining swimming pool water—protection of swimming pool surfaces and equipment and, more importantly, protection of the bather.

Balancing the water, which is done by testing for and adjusting pH, total alkalinity (TA), calcium hardness, temperature and total dissolved solids (TDS), protects the pool and equipment. It is important these factors be tested professionally and accurately to ensure the proper amounts of required chemicals are added. Carefully follow directions when working with chemicals, to avoid using more products than required. Ask your pool professional for eco-friendly balancing products that may work for you and your pool.

To make swimming pool water safe for bathers, water must also be sanitized and oxidized. These processes eliminate the risk of harmful bacteria and viruses developing in the water. There are only two chemical products approved by Health Canada for this purpose—chlorine and bromine.

To properly protect swimmers, you must maintain a chlorine or bromine residual in your swimming pool water at all times (see bottom of article for Health Canada recommended minimum levels). There are no alternatives. There are, however, certain products you can use to reduce the amount of chlorine or bromine your pool requires. This process is called chemical conservation.

The key to chemical conservation is reducing the chlorine demand in your pool water. Every swimming pool has a chlorine/bromine demand, which correlates to the amount needed to remove all wastes while still leaving a residual behind. If you are having difficulty maintaining a chlorine or bromine residual, demand has not been met.

There are several easy maintenance steps that can be taken to help reduce chlorine demand by reducing the organic load in the pool, including:

  • Running circulation equipment strictly according to the pool's needs;
  • Keeping the area around your pool free of leaves and debris;
  • Using an automatic pool cleaner to maintain cleanliness; and
  • Cleaning out the skimmer basket and pump strainer basket on a regular basis.

There are also various systems and products available to help lower chlorine or bromine demand.

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