Pool Vs. Lawn: Which Uses More Water?

This has been a dry summer for many across the US. California is currently experiencing the worst drought since its founding in 1850. While California cities are concerned with the three-year drought that has led many city councils to set restrictions on the filling of pools, studies have shown that pools use less water than lawns.

A recent article in the LA Times addresses this issue, assuaging many California’s guilt over pool ownership while a drought is hampering the state’s water supply. Turns out, a pool isn’t nearly the literal drain on water some law makers would have it appear.

Research has shown that even without a cover, a pool uses less water over three years than a traditional lawn of similar square footage. The initial use of water comes when a pool is filled but pool owners don’t drain and refill their pool every season, especially in California where you can use a pool year round.

According to a graph put out by the LA Times, an uncovered pool uses the most water in the first year of use, just ahead of a traditional lawn. That trend begins to change, however, sometime after two and a half years. A covered pool is significantly more efficient, using less water than even drought-tolerant landscaping after four years of use.

A pool seems like an easy target for those trying to handle droughts, though it’s often a misguided effort. Some districts in California are already prohibiting new pools from being filled and are placing strict limitations on how much water existing pools can use.

Like the article says, “Pools aren’t the water wasters some have made them out to be.”

Another study conducted by Santa Margarita Water District examined water-use and found that pools require thousands of gallons to fill initially but use 8,000 less gallons than a traditional landscape after that. Water agencies like LA Department of Water and Power have reached similar conclusions.

Use of tradition covers or solar blankets help pool’s efficiency significantly and cuts evaporation by half, making pools significantly less wasteful than grass. With this knowledge, Santa Margarita Water District officials will reconsider their existing ban sometime next week.

California is currently in the third year of a serious drought, something residents of California are aware of. There’s a possibility the drought will end soon, but it could continue on. Because of this worry, several water distributors in the state of California have considered pool restrictions. Many of them are pulling back on those limitations after being crunching the numbers on their own.

Even if counties in California were to enact a pool-filling ban, it wouldn’t make much of a dent in the problem. According to Tony Firenzi, deputy director of technical services with the Placer County Water Agency, bans on restaurants providing water for the table and people filling new pools isn’t really “significant enough to change the situation.”

Rather, more emphasis is being placed on reducing irrigation and landscaping—an area where conservation efforts can make a bigger impact.

The rapid growth of California’s population has escalated the problem which prompted Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency in January. Brown also encouraged his constituents to reduce their water usage by 20%.

Water conservation is a noble cause, though it seem to be ill-advised every time cities start in the direction of pool restricting law making. These efforts fail to consider the strain on the economy if they discourage pool building and often don't think about how much water a swimming pool actually uses. The truth is that pools use less water than your lawn and may ultimately conserve water relative to traditional landscaping.

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