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.