By Jose Torres
An outdoor swimming pool is a valuable investment for a condominium complex. Especially in warm climate regions of the country, this amenity can be the difference between a renter and buyer choosing one complex over another. However, maintaining an outdoor pool to resident standards and health code requirements is a costly and time-consuming endeavor. Skimming leaves, brushing the sides of the pools to remove algae, constantly testing and adding chemicals and keeping the water sparkling clean is a never-ending job. Unfortunately, no matter how clean a pool is kept, over time chemical build-up leads to a point where the pool has to be drained.
This is especially problematic in areas where water restrictions are in place due to drought. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 81 percent of the contiguous United States was under at least abnormally dry conditions in 2012. More recently, the news has been filled with stories of extreme drought in California and other western states. Regardless if a condominium is located in a drought-stricken area or not, conserving water when possible is of monumental importance.
While chlorine is essential to kill harmful microorganisms that can cause health-related problems in swimming pools and spas, adding it to pools also deteriorates water quality. A pool properly treated with chlorine can help prevent swimmers’ ear, athlete’s foot, skin rashes and other unwanted health complications. Typically, each state health department sets testing standards and chlorine level requirements for public pools. Keeping chlorine within the recommended range set by the health department is essential to ensuring the health and safety of residents and avoiding fines. However, chlorine is not the only chemical in pools that need regular monitoring.
In outdoor swimming pools, chlorine works hand-in-hand with a compound called cyanuric acid. Also known as chlorine stabilizer or chlorine conditioner, cyanuric acid is added to pools to help prevent chlorine from burning off when exposed to the sun’s UV rays. About 55 percent of dichlor (powdered chlorine) or trichlor (tablets) is cyanuric acid. Over time, the use of stabilized chlorine causes cyanuric acid levels to build up making the chlorine less effective in sanitizing pool water. Current industry and government recommendations are to maintain cyanuric acid levels at a minimum of 30 ppm and a maximum of 100 ppm. At lower levels of cyanuric acid, chlorine is more effective but dissipates faster; at higher levels of cyanuric acid, chlorine is less effective.
When the concentration of cyanuric acid in a pool exceeds 100 ppm, the current practice is to drain the pool and refill with new water. This is not only a waste of water, it also wastes electricity to run the pump required to drain the pool. If high cyanuric levels are ignored however, a number of problems can be triggered. These include:
- Skewed alkalinity
- Low readings for Oxygen Reduction Potential, which can lead to over treating with chlorine
- Stalled chlorine, which can allow algae to sprout and spread
- Damage to plaster pool walls
Rather than taking the customary approach of draining a pool to reduce and dilute cyanuric acid levels, a new alternative is possible. Cyanuric acid reducing enzymes make it possible to simply add a non-toxic, non-polluting and non-allergenic biological agent to pool water. These enzymes work by simply speeding up the natural degradation process of cyanuric acid. Broken down on the elemental level in a multi-step process, cyanuric acid molecules are eventually transformed into a harmless carbon source and water.
When using a cyanuric acid reducer, care does have to be taken to ensure that chlorine levels and temperature are at ideal levels before applying the cyanuric-reducing enzymes, otherwise, the product will not perform at maximum potential. Pools cannot have been recently shocked and chlorine levels should be between 2 ppm to 5 ppm. Temperatures should be in the 65 to 105 degree range. For larger pools and pools with extremely high levels of cyanuric acid, multiple doses may be required.
While maintenance staff will still have to test the water daily, fish out leaves and stray bandages and constantly add chlorine to pools, there is finally a solution to wasteful and costly water draining. Not only will water bills be reduced, communities will be able to reduce their environmental footprint and keep residents happy by avoiding pool closures.
Jose Torres is a senior water quality specialist for Bio-Active Products Inc.