Aquatics: Gearing Up for the Swim Season


Skies are grey, there may still be snow on the ground and the trees are not quite blooming, yet. However, soon it will be swimming season again when large numbers of swimmers will seek relief in your public facility. Are you ready? Perhaps you have an indoor facility and it is the beginning of the swim meet season. This means that some weekends you may see 800-plus swimmers in the pool over a small amount of time. What will it take to ensure the pool stays clear and the water quality is safe?

Here are some quick, efficient tips and some advice on how to prepare for a busy season or a large swim meet.

Pre-Season Prep

When it comes to prepping for the season, it is best to schedule all routines well in advance of opening day. Also, ensure that there has been plenty of time allowed for water to reach a proper balance. Water clarity will need to be in the acceptable range of 0.5 NTU or the main drain clearly visible from the pool deck. Time needs to be allowed to do seasonal shock treatments to remove any bacteria that may be present such as pseudomonas or E.coli. A purge of the system may need to be done as well prior to opening. Since many facilities are on seasonal, time-sensitive schedules, it is imperative that a list of all procedures be checked early in advance of the season opening.

Equipment Inspections

Time for equipment inspections should be allowed as well. This is important to allow for any repairs or replacement work that may need to be done. Well ahead of opening day is also the time to take inventory and order extra replacement parts. If a pump fails in the middle of the season, it could cause a shutdown of the facility at the height of activity. Being proactive and having extra pump motors on hand can save a lot of revenue during the busy season. Having extra filter media on hand, such as sand or extra D.E. grids or cartridges, can help keep filters in shape and operational during the busy season.

Air Quality

The off-season is the time to ensure that HVAC systems are cleaned and operational. For indoor pools, proper ventilation and air control can help to ensure a healthy indoor environment for swimmers. Proper humidity control and indoor-outdoor air exchange can protect the integrity of the building itself by preventing mold and corrosion of materials.

Water Quality Practices

When it comes to water quality during times of heavy use, such as a swim meet, Steve White of Underwater Pool Masters in West Boylston, Mass., has a twofold approach: "First off clear water is critical." There are a number of things to check to ensure the best water clarity during the busy times. Clean filter media is number one. Then the sanitation and pH. White said, "Whether the system is automated or manual, the chlorine must be kept at the highest side of acceptable levels." He also encourages checking the system frequently during busy times, especially the circulation and flow rate. Also, ensure that all baskets and filters are clean and free of debris during these times.

For outdoor pools in the heat of the season, White encourages extra diligence in testing and keeping chlorine levels at the maximum allowable level. In addition, since the increase in swimmers brings an increase in cosmetics and sunscreens, he recommends using enzymes and clarifiers as a reserve to keep the water quality clean and clear. Be aware of the weather and be proactive with shock treatments, algaecides, enzymes and clarifiers. "Nature is ready at any time to turn the pool into a pond, so you must be proactive and ready for anything," White said.

Recreational Water Illness Protection

When the number of swimmers begins to increase, so does the load of contaminants, bacteria, viruses and protozoa. One swimmer in a pool can introduce millions of pathogenic (disease-causing) contaminants. This can be anything from E.coli to chlorine-resistant cryptosporidium. It is vital for proper levels of sanitizer to be maintained on the highest allowable level. Filters must be clean and running efficiently. The use of ozone or UV as backups can help in bringing an extra layer of prevention and protection. Lastly, enhancing the filtration with use of a dual polymer treatment can help in speeding up the removal of small micron pathogens. A two-part clarifier system can grab particles down to 0.5 micron and make them filterable and removed within 24 hours.

Safe Practices Training


Being prepared for opening day or that busy swim meet also means making sure that all staff are sufficiently trained in advance. This includes understanding chemical safety, proper storage and use and never mixing chemicals. They should be trained to observe physical hazards as well, such as a broken or cracked main drain cover or broken fencing or gates. They should know how and when to use personal protective equipment (PPE). They should be properly prepared for emergencies and evacuation policies. Education programs such as the Commercial Pool Operator (CPO) training program from National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF) or the Certified Maintenance Specialist and Certified Service Technician training programs offered from the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) are extremely helpful for staff. These courses can be taken in the off-season and in many cases are required by health officials.

Products That Help

Besides the standards like chlorine, sanitizer and water balance chemicals, there are other products in commercial sizes that can be extremely helpful for heavy use pools. Two primary products are a chitosan clarifier, which can efficiently remove small micron contaminants quickly to the filter. These types of clarifiers can be used while swimmers are present and cannot be overdosed. They also can be used in tandem with super-chlorination when needed. Broad-spectrum commercial enzymes can also be helpful at reducing scum formation on surfaces and the filters. These enzymes can also work at improving water quality by quickly breaking down non-living organics and odor-causing contaminants. Phosphate testing and the use of removers when needed ahead of opening can help to reduce many water quality problems from occurring during the busy season.



Terry Arko has more than 30 years of experience in the pool and spa/hot tub industry, working in service, repair, retail sales, chemical manufacturing, customer service, sales and product development. A Certified Pool Operator (CPO) and CPO Instructor through the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF), Arko is currently a water specialist for NC Brands, parent company of SeaKlear and Natural Chemistry, which is a manufacturer of pool and spa products. For more information, visit