Cloudy water might be the No. 1 nemesis of aquatic operators. I’d almost rather have an untrained lifeguard than cloudy water. At least the untrained eye can spot someone on the bottom of the pool.

So when the water at my 526,000-

gallon wave pool started to cloud up only two hours into opening day 2010, I obviously had some concern.

Even after placing additional lifeguards on the pool, the water became too cloudy to safely remain open. I promptly cleared the pool and handed out more than 1,000 VIP passes to disappointed guests.

As soon as I cleared the pool, the troubleshooting began. Immediately, I had several thoughts of what the problem could be. Insufficient vacuuming or brushing, bather load, turnover rate, water chemistry, particles in the rubber rock and filter sand all came to mind. Then I thought, “What the heck am I going to do tomorrow?!”

I went “back to school” by reopening my operator textbooks. I even attended AI University! The more I read, the more I leaned toward filtration as the root cause.

Meanwhile, I had to limit the number of guests. I knew the water would stay clear enough if we kept attendance to 1,600. There’s nothing like turning away upwards of 300 people after 4 p.m. for two weekends in a row. Now that’s a customer service nightmare.

Slowly we chipped away at potential causes. We vacuumed the pool daily. We continued to brush the pool bottom and stayed well within the bather load guidelines. While the turnover rate could be higher (we have a rate of 3 ½ to 4 hours), it was adequate. We checked the saturation index and subsequently lowered the TA to well under 100, the recommended level for our sanitizing system. We power-washed the rubber rock to try to free any suspended debris. We gave all of these options a valiant effort, but the cloudy water persisted.

Changing out the filter sand remained the only option, and the most expensive! We hired a local contractor to work continuously for 36 hours. During the sand change, we found that the gravel was too big (the biggest the contractor had seen in a pool filter in 20 years) and had not been washed free of clay before installation, creating big chunks of “concrete” that kept the water from flowing through the gravel.

We reopened the next day and the water looked beautiful. It remained crystal clear the following Saturday, even with more than 2,100 people in attendance. The rest of the summer, you could definitely tell a huge difference in the water clarity from the start of the summer and previous years. Problem solved!