Service technicians are reporting unusual fluctuations in the chemical composition of fill water throughout the Sunbelt states.
The water’s composition, they say, often varies significantly
from one service visit to the next, making pools difficult to
balance and treat effectively. Many have noted abrupt spikes and
dips in calcium hardness levels in particular.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” said Lance
Sada, owner of A Clear Choice Pool and Spa Service in Sun City,
Calif. “Municipalities are pulling from more water sources
than ever — they’re blending water, they’re
recycling water. There are just too many variables.”
Though sudden variations in the chemical makeup of fill water are
not uncommon in rainy or drought-stricken regions, this emerging
trend appears to be increasing not only in rural areas dependent on
well water, but also in and around major urban centers.
“Well water in rural areas has generally tended to be on the
harder side,” said Danny Cervantez, a business development
representative at PoolCorp in Van Nuys, Calif. “But lately
we’ve been seeing unusually soft water in those areas, while
we’re seeing harder water in areas where it used to be pretty
Veteran techs say these fluctuations likely reflect changes in
municipal water management policies. In the past year, they noted,
more cities have begun regulating their supplies by blending water
from various wells and storage tanks, and changing the proportions
of that blending as needed, sometimes daily.
Though such mixing would be virtually unnoticeable to many
consumers, it is wreaking havoc on some techs’ efforts to
balance water on a weekly service regimen.
“It can fluctuate from morning to afternoon,” said
Steve Sargent, owner of Elite Custom Pools & Spas in Lake
Forest, Calif. “So we always test pools before we fill them,
and we test as the water is coming out of the hose. You’ve
really got to stay on top of it.”
Further complicating matters are phosphates, which provide food for
algae and can combine with calcium to form calcium phosphate scale.
Though techs say phosphates are unlikely to originate in fill water
— more plausible sources are contaminants such as fertilizers
and other industrial pollutants — these chemicals can work
with hardness variations to create an even less cooperative aquatic
“When we encounter water chemistry that’s difficult to
maintain, we find that nine times out of 10, phosphates are
involved,” said Steve Ostrowski, president of Chico Pools in
Chico, Calif. “Though we’re working to handle these
issues, I think a lot of home-owners are going to get hit with
green pools as soon as the weather warms up.”
While there’s no silver-bullet solution, experts say the best
tactic may simply be to test regularly, and value hard data over
“I check every pool when I’m filling it, and I check
all my water chemistry parameters on a monthly basis.” Sada
said. “You can’t count on anything anymore.”