Sometimes I think pool operators wish patrons wouldn’t come and swim. No people. No dirt or anything else.

Unfortunately, no people, no problem, no income, no money is a terrible business model.

What we need are lots of people: babies, kids, mommies, daddies, mom-mom, pop-pop, in the water and out, splashing, laughing, all creating a lifetime of memories, having  fun and spending discretionary income.

But that’s also where poor pool operators start to stress. They are responsible for healthy water. They cannot be left alone with this responsibility; they need help. Total dissolved solids, murky water, dirty water, chloramines, chlorine smell, high pH — what to do?

Patron awareness is the most effective way to prevent poor water quality. People bring in contaminants, but not on purpose. They might think the bathroom, sink and shower are for cleaning up after a long day at the waterpark — not before.

Proper signage, constant reminders and knowledgeable people on the ground to raise patron awareness must emphasize the “need to clean.” Families planning trips to destination waterparks rarely consider use of the facilities before entering the parks. Sunscreen? Check. Crocks or flip flops? Check. Sunglasses? Check. Snacks? Check. But shower? Wash hands? Maybe, maybe not.

After more than 15 years in the aquatics industry, I’ve had the opportunity to witness country club, YMCA and community pool closures due to water contamination. These pool closures might have been prevented through proper patron awareness. Constant reminders to use toilets, sinks and showers are paramount to maintaining happy, healthy water.

Still, people are not always as clean as we would like them to be. Therefore, operators need to utilize filtration systems capable of sanitizing these bodies of water in a safe, efficient and responsible manner.

Even if the waterpark does a fantastic job with customer awareness, it does not mean operators can relax. In fact, awareness is just the beginning. Education, technology, science and proper execution of the filtration cycle are key to maintaining happy water.

Fifty years ago, if you had a big slide and a big body of water, you had a waterpark. Get some lifeguards, a concession stand, volleyball, four square, check your chlorine in the morning; broadcast some chlorine and — bam! — you’re in business.

That’s not the case anymore. Now we have Great Wolf Lodge, Disney World, Atlantis, Six Flags and many more great parks. These organizations saw the need to pay attention to water. Their filtration systems are designed with one thing in mind: water quality. The systems contain components such as:

  • Regenerative filtration systems. These are becoming extremely popular, especially in areas where water is a concern. Water erosion and consumption are becoming problems as population grows in a given market.
  • Flooded suction pumps with variable-speed drive. Often referred to as VFD or variable-frequency drive, these control the pump’s motor speed, allowing you to dial into the proper flow rate. This can yield significant energy savings.
  •  Chemical automation. This is an excellent way to ensure proper dosing of chlorine and pH. These systems take the human error out of the basic chemistry management while reducing human contact with the chemicals.
  •  Automatic water level controllers. These eliminate the potential for human error in overfilling, overlooking the need to fill (possible expensive damage to equipment), and the cost of having someone check all your bodies of water.
  •  Ultraviolet disinfection or UV. This technology is becoming essential in indoor atmospheres and a huge asset to outdoor applications. The benefits are enormous in the disinfection of waterborne pathogens such as cryptosporidium, giardia and e. coli.  UV can limit the need to superchlorinate, leading to less chlorine usage and saving money.
  • All of these components not only increase efficiency, but also use less energy, time and chlorine. The systems require monitoring, service and knowledge. Once you have the knowledge, you are on your way to healthier water.

    In the future, technology will lead to even healthier water. Expect to see programmable logic controllers capable of monitoring and controlling our applications: chlorine monitoring and dispensing; pH monitoring and adjusting; water level adjustment; variable-speed control; UV monitoring; temperature monitoring; automatic safeguards; and insufficient flow shut-off control.

    Such a system most likely will be built off site as a pre-installed system specifically made for an individual body of water. End users will be able to set the system, connect the utilities and commission the entire system themselves. Even with all this technology and science at our fingertips, we will never be able to remove the pool operator due to the simple fact that none of these systems has the ability to think or reason. Preventive maintenance, proactive troubleshooting and a human touch are crucial in a successfully clean body of water. So let’s take time to reiterate patron awareness and thank our operators for healthy water.