• The process: A firm in Arizona and another in California are introducing mobile water-recycling systems. Pool Water Purifications unit (above) incorporates a 13-membrane reverse-osmosis process. Chemical treatments before and after filtration help remove scale from the pools surface and balance the water.
    The process: A firm in Arizona and another in California are introducing mobile water-recycling systems. Pool Water Purification’s unit (above) incorporates a 13-membrane reverse-osmosis process. Chemical treatments before and after filtration help remove scale from the pool’s surface and balance the water.

In the Southwest, pools are emptied on a semiannual basis to combat calcium stains. Two like-minded businesses see money going down the drain.

San Marcos, Calif.-based Pool Services Technologies Inc. and Pool Water Purification Inc. in Lake Havasu, Ariz., are offering an alternative to draining and refilling to homeowners who want renewed pool water.

The firms are hoping their services not only catch on with consumers, but with the industry. Both are making their products available to enterprising pool professionals.

Pool Services Technologies Inc.

Several years ago, Bruce Wettstein was presented with a challenge: Remove the hard calcium from a client’s swimming pool without draining it.

“I told him the only way to do it was to drain and refill. And he said, ‘Well, what about reverse osmosis?’ ” Wettstein recalled.

That got the pool builder thinking: Was there a way to use the same technology that makes household water potable to remove unwanted minerals from pool water? For a guy who grew up enjoying high-quality aqua (his dad was in the bottled water business), backing down from this challenge wasn’t an option.

Wettstein consulted with an expert on the subject of reverse osmosis — a process used to treat wastewater — to help develop a mobile filtration unit. The result was a 20-foot trailer housing a generator, filters, injection tanks, ultraviolet rays and industrial-sized membranes resembling tightly coiled rolls of paper towels through which water can return to its purest state. Dirty water comes in, clean water goes out. The pool is never drained empty. It generally takes 10 to 12 hours. Wettstein compares the process to dialysis.

After overcoming several engineering hurdles, he launched Pool Services Technologies in 2009. The client who initially presented Wettstein with the calcium challenge was Sal Paldino, now vice president of the company. Wettstein is president and Kevin Scheer is director of marketing and social media. The trio sees dollar signs in the growing water-conservation movement.

In the Southwest, where hard water plagues pools with calcium buildup, it’s generally recommended that pools be drained every two to three years. “That’s a lot of water not only being dumped, but that’s another 20,000 gallons of water being put back into the pool,” Scheer said. “We saw that over and over again, and we felt there had to be a better solution.”

Many municipalities are enforcing restrictions to curb waste and prevent chemicals from contaminating water quality. For example, homeowners in Dallas could face a $2,000 fine for dumping heavily chlorinated pool water into storm drains. Sheer foresees the day when draining won’t be an option. “I personally hope there is a moratorium on draining pools, and I think eventually that could happen,” he said.

The service is catching on with the water-wise. Pool Services Technologies treats approximately three pools a week and so far has saved an estimated 10 million gallons.

Cost is based on pool size: $475 for up to 20,000 gallons. It goes up $100 for every 5,000 gallons thereafter. Additional charges apply for anything exceeding 30,000 gallons.

It’s mostly a residential service, but the company is making inroads to commercial properties. The big selling point: No need to turn paying customers away to drain the pool. People can swim while the water is being treated.

Want your own mobile filtration unit? Pool Services Technologies recently launched a dealership, making and selling the equipment, and financing is available. The company hasn’t found its first buyer yet, but Scheer said they’re fielding several inquiries a week.

Pool Water Purification Inc.

With the evaporation rate in the Arizona deserts estimated at more than 11 feet per year, dissolved solids and recycling have become a big issue in the Grand Canyon State.

So about three years ago, retired builder Jerry Gilbert partnered with Rick Lathrop of Lathrop Pool Service and Repair to create their filtration system on wheels. The two formed Pool Water Purification Inc. in Lake Havasu City, Ariz. Gilbert came out of retirement when Lathrop approached him with an idea to develop not only a reverse osmosis recycling system, but to augment it with a chemical regimen that could dissolve scale off the surfaces before the recycling took place, and to balance the newly recycled water.

Currently, Lathrop’s service firm performs the work in the Lake Havasu area, and the partners plan to franchise the equipment and process to other firms in about a year.

The process begins when the professional adjusts the pool chemistry, in part reducing the alkalinity, so the water dissolves salt crystals from the tile and interior surface. The water is then processed through the mobile recycling system, which is powered with a 480-volt generator, 25-horsepower motor and variable-speed pump. A computerized control center regulates the pressure of the water as it is forced through 13 membranes. The system is designed to preserve at least 80 percent of the water, with the waste holding the removed solids going to the sewer. Finally, another chemical adjustment is performed to balance the water.

The process can purify approximately 12,000 to 13,000 gallons of water in four to five hours. Gilbert estimated that the system so far has saved millions of gallons.

Additionally, this system could be used to purify tap water during gunite and plaster stages, improving the quality of the mix, Gilbert said.

Pool Water Purification Inc. commissioned a study with Arizona State University College of Technology and Innovation’s iProjects program, which partners students with local businesses. The team sought to verify the performance of Pool Water Purification’s system and determine the environmental impact of recycling water. According to Gilbert, the study showed that the method saves as much as 80 percent more water than draining a pool when the water reaches saturation point. Additionally, he said, it uses 28 percent less energy than what would otherwise be needed to process replacement water from the tap.

“Our main goal is putting together a plan that we hope the industry can pick up on, because sooner or later we’re going to have to stand and try to explain what we do with the water that we put in swimming pools,” Gilbert said. “Right now we would have to tell them we waste it, and we don’t want that.”