Feature Article - June 2008
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The Deep End

The highest annual operating expenditures for aquatic facilities are seen in the Western and South Atlantic states, which reported an average of $437,800 and $436,800, respectively, for fiscal 2007. This compares to the lowest average costs, seen in the Northeast at $321,700. That said, the most rapid increases are expected in the Northeast, where respondents projected a 20.7 percent increase between 2007 and 2009.

One executive director of a Massachusetts fitness club with both indoor and outdoor pools placed the blame on constantly rising utility costs. "It cost us over $200,000 more in 2007 versus 2006," he said. "We are looking at another erosion of the bottom line in 2008 due to utility costs."

"Energy and resources are not going to get cheaper—and that means energy as well as water," said Tom Lachocki, Ph.D., CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF). "A lot of it doesn't have anything to do with the United States. Our country has such homogeneity throughout the country that we don't realize that a lot of things in the world are impacting us. Growing demand for energy in China, India, the Middle East and other parts of the world are contributing to growing demand and higher prices in the U.S. No one can predict the future, but the likelihood is that energy costs are not going to go down in the next decades."

He added that concerns about droughts and water utilization also have an impact on aquatic facilities, and all of this pressure will lead to the aquatic industry focusing more on using resources effectively, perhaps by building more environmentally friendly facilities, but also by taking other measures to help conserve.

"Clearly we're a water industry. The amount used is relatively small compared to other industries, but that doesn't mean there won't be pressure on us to make sure we're using that resource effectively," Lachocki said. "That might mean using pool covers to conserve heat, using more efficient heating, reducing transport of chemicals, or changing the way we manage facilities, such as by using variable speed pumps or even allowing pumps to be turned off when water quality is adequate."

In fact, while just 4.3 percent of aquatic respondents indicated that their facilities relied on solar pool heating, 5.8 percent more are planning to add solar heating for their pools. Likewise, chlorination and disinfection systems that reduce the amount of chemicals being shipped and added to the water were among our respondents plans. More than 11 percent said they currently use saline chlorination, while 7.7 percent use UV disinfection and 5.5 percent use an ozone system. In the next three years, another 8.8 percent plan to add UV disinfection, while 4 percent plan to add saline chlorination, and 3 percent plan to add ozone.