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One is made of lime, the other is made of sand (or salt). The drought that Catalonia has been dragging for months is severely shaking the pool business. And not always for the worse. While employers warn of a decline in orders for new swimming pools and debate whether local councils should stop issuing licenses for the construction of these pools, there are other companies in the sector working on the supply of seawater and desalination plants. activity increased rapidly.

The reason is very simple: the Generalitat allows this liquid to be used to fill swimming pools. Of course, its use is not always a good idea and can lead to problems and sanctions if not done properly and with well-prepared facilities.

This is another effect of drought.

pools in the eyes. There are around 196,000 swimming pools in Catalonia, the vast majority of which are uncovered, and the lack of rain has not been particularly good for them. With much of society in a state of emergency or exception, and with internal basins holding 16.94% water reserves, these facilities, often focused on entertainment, have infiltrated public debate.

When detailing the restrictions applicable in case of drought, the Catalan authorities clearly state: Except in special cases, such as sports pools of the Generalitat or sports pools used for federated sports and therapeutic treatments, it is prohibited to fill these pools with fresh water. .

fresh water, salt water. This last remark is important because the Generalitat is considering another exception to fill the pools. It allows you to do this with sea water, as long as a basic condition is met: the glasses must be filled and emptied without connection to supply and sanitation networks. In other words, owners need to make a living managing liquid and renting tanker trucks.

Triple the number of customers. The possibility of reaching summer with a pool full of water, even if it is sea water, is attractive enough to trigger the demand of companies that are determined to work with it. And a button for example. In March, the Aquamarina Costa Brava company announced that its activities in La Sexta had increased, with calls from urban developments, hotels, camping sites and people interested in sea water supply.

Juit Puig, founder and partner of the firm, told the chain: “We have tripled the number of our customers. Last year we were already starting to have customers requesting this service, but this season we have seen tremendous growth.” in february Country It also reflected the “boom” in the procurement of portable desalination plants with a production capacity of 50,000 liters per day and costing up to 150,000 euros. He drew attention to the demand especially among tourism companies.

On the radar of professionals. If there is a group that looks anxiously at the restrictions imposed by drought and finds it difficult to spend a summer without cooling pools, it is the tourist group. To avoid this, the union even explored the possibility of importing water from France or obtaining water through Catalan companies, but it did not take long for the Generalitat to cancel this option. “It doesn’t matter if it comes from France, Bilbao or Japan, you can’t fill the pool if it is not sea water,” said the Catalan Water Agency (ACA), emphasizing: “Its origin does not matter; it comes from the sea.”

Even the Catalan Camping Federation (FCC) was interested in the seawater option and raised the issue in a meeting with the Catalan Climate Action advisor at the beginning of the year. The businessmen even claimed that they were working on a plan to fill their pools with such liquid.

Screenshot 2024 04 03 144334

Map of the Catalan Water Agency at different levels: blue (normality), green (pre-alarm), yellow (alarm), orange (exceptional), pink (pre-alarm), red (emergency) and brown (emergency II).

A solution but not perfect. Seawater may be a solution for filling pools in times of drought, but it is far from perfect. And there are several reasons for this: It’s not easy, it poses technical challenges, and doing it improperly can have consequences. At the end of the day, the Generalitat recalls that swimming pools can be filled using seawater, but this must always be done outside the public network.

To understand this, it is useful to remember the different types of facilities available. As Piscina de Cor recalls, besides freshwater glasses that keep their liquids well with chemicals, there are two other types of pools that contain salt water: chlorinating pools, which use salt to produce chlorine through an electrolytic process; and those that use seawater directly.

They may look the same, but there are differences. And it’s very important. While salt levels in chlorinator pools are generally kept in the range of 3,000 to 4,000 parts per million (ppm), the salt content in seawater is much higher at 35,000 ppm. Just a month ago, Climate Action’s own advisor David Mascort noted that filling swimming pools with seawater was “no problem” but that doing it well required a “different investment”.

A “disaster” idea. This time, the warning comes from another company in the sector, Piscines Aqua Blau, which warns that improper filling of the pool with seawater could have “catastrophic” consequences for both the facility, the environment and the customer portfolio. Higher concentration of dissolved salts can affect materials, ladders, filtration pumps… And the water needs to be purified to guarantee its health.

Filling a pool with seawater also requires adapting the plumbing to ensure that the water will not be discharged into the sewer. Owners should replace filters and make sure they have a chlorinator that can withstand salinity and corrosion-resistant materials. Companies in the industry or the ACA itself have warned that filling swimming pools with this water is complicated in most cases.

a technical difficulty. “If we partially fill the pool with seawater, we run the risk of the salt electrolysis equipment stopping working, because seawater contains approximately 33 grams of salt per liter and the equipment operates with 6 grams,” he says Pioneer Angel Pastor from Piscines Blanes.

Davis Tapias of Fluidra Innovation agrees, reminding us that seawater “can stop electrolysis and damage equipment, as well as increasing corrosion.” “Seawater can only be used safely in specially prepared pools, such as those used for thalassotherapy treatments,” explains the expert.

Pictures | Nabih El Boustani (Unsplash) and Catalan Water Agency

in Xataka | In the midst of one of the most extreme droughts in memory, Catalonia had an idea: Start chopping down trees

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