Feature Article - June 2009
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A Look at Trends in Aquatic Facilities

Many of these features might serve to improve the bottom line for the facilities that install them. For example, installing water play structures, slides and zero-depth entry adds recreational elements to the pool that might help draw more users, while installing a pool lift or making a pool otherwise more accessible to handicapped or older patrons can also be a way to reach out to more users.

The prevalence of respondents planning to add UV disinfection systems reflects the ongoing commitment to fighting recreational water illnesses (RWIs) at aquatic facilities.

"With the number of outbreaks that occurred over the past several years, there's much more interest in installing UV or ozone and having a third leg in the protection scheme on the pool," Lachocki said. "Right now you have chlorine filtration on almost every pool. In the future, it will be chlorine filtration plus something else, and more and more it's becoming UV. More and more data is showing that enhancing filtration is a good way to reduce the risk of RWI outbreaks."

The fact that solar pool heating appears on the list of top features aquatic facility respondents plan to add reflects a determination to improve energy efficiency, which is another way to boost the bottom line. Mendioroz said he's also seen more existing facilities make such investments.

"They're looking at passive thermal solar, because so much of the facility cost is just to heat the pool," he said. Other investments that help reduce the pool's energy costs, he added, include variable frequency drives on pumps, water-saving filtration systems, automatic backwash and filtration and more.

While solar can be a pricey investment for some because of the needed footprint, Mendioroz said, it can result in impressive cost savings. "It gets very expensive if you have to build something to mount the solar panels on," he said. "It's not cheap, but we have found that the combination of solar with thermal blankets—the covers you so often see—will save between 70 and 80 percent of pool heating costs." Rising energy costs are having a major impact on how quickly you can recoup the investment in these kinds of technologies. "It used to be that solar was an eight- to 10-year payback," Mendioroz added. "In today's costs, it's four to six years."