Feature Article - June 2011
A Look at Trends in Aquatic Facilities
By Emily Tipping
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as recently as 2008, swimming was the second most popular sports activity in terms of participation, with 23.7 percent of people engaging in it at least six times per year. The following year, the National Sporting Goods Association pegged swimming as fourth in terms of total participation, surpassed only by exercise walking, exercising with equipment and camping.
Managing the facilities where millions of Americans fit in their water workouts and aquatic fun is no simple task, and the recent economic climate has had an impact, leading to many "pool closed" signs across the American landscape. That said, aquatics are alive and well for our survey respondents.
This year's response saw a slight increase in the number of respondents who report that their facilities include aquatics of some kind. Last year, 51.7 percent of respondents had aquatics. This year, that number has risen to 55.8 percent. (See Figure 34.)
In recent years, innovative technologies for keeping water clean and safe have been gaining in popularity. With concern about chlorine-resistant pathogens at the forefront of many aquatic facility operators' minds, systems that provide extra protection are on the rise. In addition, UV disinfection systems are seeing growing use as concerns about indoor air quality receive more attention.
Of the systems covered by our survey, UV disinfection is the most commonly used, and is also the most common type of system facilities were planning to add.
UV systems were found most often among respondents from parks, where 17.5 percent of respondents have them. They were followed by YMCAs (17 percent), community centers (16 percent), health clubs (14.7 percent) and colleges (11.6 percent).
YMCAs were the most likely to be planning to add UV disinfection. Some 16 percent of aquatic respondents from YMCAs said they had such plans. They were followed by health clubs (14.7 percent) and parks (11 percent).
Saline chlorination systems were most commonly found among health clubs. More than a third (35.3 percent) of aquatic respondents from health clubs said they had saline chlorination systems. They also were the most likely to be planning to add these systems. Ozone systems also were most commonly found in health clubs, where 11.8 percent of aquatic respondents have them. Parks respondents were the most likely to report that they have plans to add ozone systems.