Water Quality Management – A Cross-Industry Challenge
I’ve always believed that within almost every problem, shortcoming or even failure, there lies opportunity.
That’s certainly the way I see things when it comes to the state of water treatment in the pool and spa industry. From our own company’s perspective, the water quality we’re able to achieve by combining ozone, UV, and just a small dose of chlorine is something unheard of. I’m very proud of the creation of our SRK HydroZone 3® system, and through our company’s experience, we’ve seen firsthand the opportunity that awaits the entire aquatic world — but collectively we’ve got to recognize that fact to make it real.
Often, inconsistent and unreliable water treatment methods are used in both residential and commercial pools and spas, and it’s abundantly clear that our entire industry has an opportunity to dramatically improve. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that we are all faced with a choice of whether or not we elevate our thinking about water quality and, indeed, reinvent the future of the aquatic experience.
That optimistic view is, however, balanced by the fact that collectively we have a long, long way to go.
Water Quality Issues Persist
Evidence of that distance can be found on a number of different fronts. First and foremost, we see it in the water quality issues that plague so many pools, especially those that serve the public. We see it in the cloudy water and smell it in the fetid air that defines the aquatic experience for far too many consumers. We see it in the lack of awareness among facility owners and managers, as well as homeowners, that they can have something so much better. We see it in the media reports of contamination in pool water and the sensationalism that accompanies those reports.
More than anything, we see it in the lack of advancement within our industry and our reliance upon old technologies. Specifically, we see it in the lack of education about things like ozone and UV technology and other more modern methods of water treatment.
I recently attended the Pool and Spa Show in Atlantic City, N.J., one of the largest trade shows our industry stages every year. The event is widely known for its excellent professional education programs, offering numerous seminars across a broad range of topics. Naturally, water chemistry is one of the areas of greatest interest among the show’s more than ten thousand attendees. After all, chemistry is one of those fields of study where there’s always something more to know, and I’m always curious to gauge how our industry approaches the topic at any given time.
What I found there was incomplete in a couple of important ways. The chemistry classes were focused almost entirely on standard chlorination, along with other familiar topics such as plaster problems and dealing with algae, but nothing new in terms of solving common water quality problems. Ozone and UV received only cursory mentions with a brief mention of how ozone and UV can be effective against Cryptosporidium, a microorganism that is completely resistant to disinfection with chlorine. There was no discussion of how these wonderful technologies work or how they support water and air quality by eliminating disinfection byproducts.
Even though there was useful information and credit is due to the people who work hard to organize these programs, I couldn’t help but feel there was a void that represents opportunity.
Water Quality Management in Other Industries
We owe it to ourselves and to our customers, now and especially in the future, to do better, to be more progressive by embracing more advanced technology. Given the technical capabilities we now have and the scientific knowledge at our disposal, no one should ever have to swim, play or luxuriate in water that is anything less than impeccable.
It also occurred to me that this is a case where our industry would do well to look to the way technology is used in other applications. For example, I think it would be useful if organizers of educational programs would bring in experts from the world of public aquariums and marine animal husbandry.
Think about it, we know that humans are the greatest contributors of contaminants to pool and spa water. However, what we do to water is almost nothing in comparison to the biological loading that occurs in a large aquarium that houses fish and marine mammals as full-time residents. In those facilities, ozone and UV are the mainstays of water treatment precisely because the combination does an amazing job of sanitizing water and oxidizing organic contaminants. And, because chlorine and chloramines are toxic to fish, those chemicals are nowhere to be found.
If we look at industrial applications that require pure water, such as the manufacturer of semi-conductors or even the production of beverages such as beer and wine, again we see the use of ozone, UV, reverse osmosis, ion exchange, and other technology and science-based methods.
Yet, with all of that going on in our world, our industry remains stuck on relying almost entirely on chlorine to get the job done. And, as we see time and time again, that approach is hit and miss at best. I can’t help but wonder, if other industries that rely on pure water can advance, why can’t we?
The SRK HydroZone 3 System
Now, let’s make no mistake, I am not debunking chlorine, far from it. Rather, I’m simply saying we’re not using it correctly and we’re certainly not thinking about it in the best way. Credit where due: chlorine has endured all these years for good reasons, it’s affordable, provides a chemical residual, it can be stabilized in sunlight, and it is a tremendously effective oxidizer and sanitizer. No other chemical provides all those benefits in one. But, it’s also prone to creating disinfection byproducts, does not kill halogen resistant organisms such as Cryptosporidium, it adds to total dissolved solids, and it can move the water’s mineral balance up or down.
On one hand, chlorine does have its place, but on the other, there are big reasons to look for alternatives and combinations of the technologies where we take advantage of the benefits of different treatment methods, while at the same time minimizing or eliminating the drawbacks. Therein lies the opportunity.
In our HydroZone 3 systems, we use small residuals of chlorine to protect against “bather to bather” contamination. We set up a bypass loop where ozone does the lion’s share of oxidizing organic compounds. That’s combined with an inline UV treatment system that handles most of the sanitizing by way of scrambling bacteria’s DNA. And we use chemical feeders to add a tiny 0.5 ppm chlorine residual. All of this creates water that is safe, clean, and enjoyable for the user.
That is the opportunity at hand, and it offers us a choice. We can either stay mired in the ways of the past, or step into a brave new world where purity is the standard we seek and the quality we achieve.