Questions in The Observer to which the answer is no

They were the last word in glamour, but has the sun set on LA’s swimming pools?
As the state tackles a three-year water crisis, artists and academics condemn ‘backyard oases’ as selfish and wasteful

Gross water supply to California in a dry year is of the order of 150 million acre feet.

Total urban domestic water consumption (toilets, showers, washing machines, lawns and, yes, swimming pools) is of the order of 6 million acre feet a year.

So, no, swimming pools are not the problem.

With droughts in much of the western US triggering water rationing and intense political battles, others are also wondering if private pools, long part of the iconography of California, and especially Los Angeles, have become anachronisms.

“The swimming pool’s position as status symbol and sign of health, wealth and beauty has come into question with increasing public concern over pool security, code enforcement, liability, the rising costs of maintenance and a growing awareness of the finite nature of water as a natural resource,” said Dick Hebdige, a media studies professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who wrote an essay for an exhibition about pools in southern California.

Pools are bottomless pits of wasted money and water as well as “potential lawsuits, floating rodent carcasses and summer algae blooms”, said Hebdige. “The swimming pool and the gas-guzzling automobile are the twin booster icons of LA in its mid-century glory days as the city of a future that’s no longer considered viable.”

Yeah, I too always turn to a media studies professor to do the maths on resource availability.

16 comments on “Questions in The Observer to which the answer is no

  1. Out of interest, I just looked up the prevailing wind patterns for California. Generally from the north-west. Water losses from pools are mostly evapouration but that water’s not lost in a general sense. It’s headed south-east into that area of the States with all the water shortages. Where it has the opportunity to fall as rain.

  2. “I too always turn to a media studies professor to do the maths on resource availability.”

    Don’t be so hard on the poor guy. A high probability he’s already doing his part by giving baths. Starting years ago.

  3. Well, here in Mackay, Queensland, we still love our pools and gas-guzzling 4 x 4s. Yes, we have our “rule-bound dundridges” telling us the child’s trampoline must not go up against the pool fence, the pool gate must close itself in a nanosecond and we must have locks on the windows overlooking the pool in case a toddler survives the 2m fall onto concrete and jumps in the pool. But once the prodnoses have issued the stificate the trampoline goes where we want it, the gate is spragged open to allow easy movement of alcohol and food, and the windows are never locked since we live on an isolated block with no toddlers. We do occasionally have to top the pool up (it being hot up here) but mainly we can rely on the rain to top it up.

    The 4 x 4s are pretty much essential for heading out West where the pot holes are the size of a swimming pool.

  4. The Californian farmers in Central Valley drain the SW of the USA of water for their crops (crops include fruit). Then they invent “five a day” when they cannot sell enough at their greedy prices; now they blame swimming pools for the water shortage.
    Yeah, private swimming pools are a wasteful luxury but to describe pools with a tiled bottom as a “bottomless pits” is just Grauniad

  5. There was some dickbag wombling on about how California was exporting bottled water in the middle of a drought and wasn’t that awful etc. etc.. The quantity involved was something like half a million litres. I know it’s a hobby-horse of mine but so much of what is wrong with environment and science reporting can be laid at the feet of the general innumeracy of journalists—most prominently the inability to understand orders of magnitude. An acre-foot (what a stupid unit) is 1233.5 m^3 or 1.23 million litres. Per Tim’s figures, that’s 185 trillion litres of water that fall on California in a year. An Olympic-size pool contains (roughly) 2500 tons of water or 2.5 million litres. So rainfall in California is two Olympic pools per person per year.

  6. Journos didn’t study English, Classics, or some variety of Angry Studies to bother themselves with numeracy.

  7. Here in the SF Bay area (can’t speak for the rest of the state) the drought is basically the product of a dry winter. There’s been maybe a tenth of an inch of rainfall since April but that’s normal.

    I can’t be bothered looking up leakage rates but the water mains are typically a hundred years old and bursts are a regular occurrence.

    And the farmers in the Central Valley are cross because they can’t abstract the water they want from the Sacramento River. It would affect the breeding grounds of some obscure fish that only lives in the lower river where it empties into the Bay.

    So between knackered infrastructure and enviro-loons, of course the problem is private swimming pools…

  8. I was going to mention the fish that Bloke in California mentions! Foiled again.
    Mind you I understand they are maybe a couple of inches long…….a bit like the ones in the river near Cockermouth. You know, the ones the Environmental weenies wouldn’t allow the river to be dredged because of!

  9. “I too always turn to a media studies professor to do the maths on resource availability.”

    Like a journalism major would even know where to find a mathematics or economics professor on campus.

  10. Swimming pools are the ultimate luxury? What is this, the 1930s?

    The left appear to be going into terminal meltdown as the ‘Global Warming’ scam collapses and Obama’s ‘Hope and Change’ turns out to be more of the same old crap. They’re clutching for any straw as they try to find something–anything–they can use to justify their continued existence.

    And, as we all know, only the EVIL 1% have swimming pools.

  11. Did I read or imagine that in certain parts of California there are two laws, one which makes it illegal to water one’s lawn, the second which makes it an offence to have an unsightly brown (ie unwatered) lawn?

    I think I read this, and that further people have resorted to painting their lawns green.

  12. Also I don’t know a lot about desalination, but presumably it wouldn’t be too difficult to a build few more (largely solar powered) desal plants and yake your water from that large pond to the left of you as you look at the map of the USA?

    Plus I can imagine demand for the waste product – ‘California Salt – the taste of sunshine!’

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