Folks in the pool industry still remember the bleak days of 2015 when there were mandatory water restrictions in place across California. Six years ago the governor hoped to reduce water consumption by 25% by targeting the pool industry. Leaders were able to unify and fight back to change the misconception that pools are water wasters.
The perception amid many homeowners that were facing all these crazy new water restrictions at the time was that inground swimming pools were wasteful uses of water. An alarming number of homeowners had taken to filling in their swimming pools as a result and new pool construction had slowed to a crawl in California.
Although swimming pool construction has seen a tremendous resurgence with the Covid-19 pandemic, analysts fear that the bubble for pool construction is about to pop. Rising costs for construction materials, shortages of labor and ongoing price increases from the leading pool manufacturers have cut into the gains the swimming pool industry has made with consumers over the last 2 years. Issues like the ongoing drought in California aren’t helping matters.
California’s Drought & The Pool Industry
It’s not on the national radar yet, but California is facing a serious drought and there are growing concerns that it could adversely impact the pool industry yet again. Although Californians are not yet facing the mandatory restrictions they were in 2015, residents now find themselves confronted with a patchwork of new regulations.
Towns reliant on the hard-hit Russian River have imposed strict mandates in preparation for an impending crisis which they feel is coming. There is growing concern that many coastal areas may have to truck in water simply to get through the year. Simultaneously, most cities in California are preparing to weather the summer with only voluntary cuts and limited limitations, many of which are carryovers from prior droughts.
“We have a patchwork in part because (water) is managed locally,” said Felicia Marcus, who was responsible for leading the state of California’s response to the 2012-2016 drought under former Gov. Jerry Brown.
“The situation is dire in some places, and those places are making calls for higher levels of conservation,” Marcus said. “In other places, they may be prepared, or they may be dreaming.”
Tracy, CA has traditionally been a good barometer on whether or not a drought may impact the pool industry. Residents in Tracy, CA were just told they will only be allowed to water their lawns on select days after the city council voted unanimously to impose more restrictions. There are 5 stages of water restrictions they impose, right now they are in the 3rd. The 4th level has restrictions on washing cars, while the 5th level restricts residents from refilling their pools without a separation tank and recovery system.
How bad is the drought right now in California?
This year, California regulators announced that they would deliver only 5% of the State Water Project’s supplies because of extreme drought conditions. This year’s drought is the most dire situation Mendocino County has faced in decades. At the end of May, Lake Mendocino hit a record low of just 40% capacity. Earlier this month, the county faced projections that the reservoir could be dry by the end of the year.
“The aggressiveness and the severity of this drought, the way the drought is increasing is much greater than the previous drought,” Aaron Baker, chief operating officer at Valley Water, said. “Conditions will be far worse in 2022 if drought conditions continue and no action is taken.”
The Real World Concerns of Extreme Drought
This extreme drought in California has been quickly drying up reservoirs and putting a tremendous strain on electrical grids. This mega drought has depleted the states 1,500 reservoirs statewide by over 50%. This Friday, over 85% of the state was classified as officially being in an extreme drought according to National Integrated Drought Information System. The problem is so severe that a recent warning said that the drought may kill nearly all juvenile salmon in the Sacramento river this year. Given the short 3 year life cycle of salmon, a one year wipe out could greatly increase the chances of extinction for the species.
While Governor Newsome has not yet instituted the 25% mandatory restrictions of 2015, in executive order signed on Thursday he encouraged all Californians to reduce water use by 15% as 50 of the state’s 58 counties are now a drought-related state of emergency.
The PHTA Leads The Charge in Fighting Fake Drought News
One of the biggest challenges the pool industry faced back in 2015 was getting solidarity to fight negative publicity and connotations that inground pools were the equivalent of wasting water. The Pool & Hot Tub Alliance in coordination with the California Pool & Spa Association have gone to great measures in recent years releasing information that specifically addresses the myths and misinformation associated with inground pool water usage.
- 85% of California’s water supplies are dedicated to agricultural use, 10% is dedicated to personal usage, and the remaining 5% for industrial and commercial purposes. If agricultural conservation measures were instituted to cut use by 5%, the amount available for domestic & commercial usage would increase by 1/3.
- In a community where 800 new pools are built annually at an average cost of $20,000 each, about 33 percent of that $16 million (which comes to more than $5 million) represents wages of approximately 450 workers that contribute to the local economy.
Restricting Water Usage for Pools Is Not a Logical Answer To a Drought
In a state hard hit by Covid-19 restrictions and eager to get back to work, now is conceivably the worst possible time for California to begin instituting water restrictions on swimming pools. The pool industry accounts for hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue for the state of California. During the recent pandemic the industry went to great lengths to remain operational in order to support the communities which it serves. It’s important to remember that in times of drought, that pools aren’t just a luxury, they are the lifeblood for many California residents and business owners.
Let’s Look At The Numbers
California may be unprepared for a drought but it’s important to realize that instituting water conversation can hurt the pool industry and impact public perception like it did 6 years ago.
The amount of revenue an inground pool generates in terms of water usage versus what agricultural usage can produce for the same amount of water simply isn’t an apples to apples discussion and never will be unless California farmers start growing diamonds.
A study conducted by the City of Sacramento concluded that lawn irrigation use equals 49 inches per year and that swimming pool requirements are 39.6 inches per year, less walkway and decking areas equal to the actual pool area, which reduces total pool water use to 20 inches per year.
Obviously, regulating or prohibiting pool construction or the filling of swimming pools would have large-scale ramifications on the pool industry. Instituting restrictions will undoubtedly effect the taxes paid by these businesses and wage earners. Water restrictions impacting pools would also impact the amount of money consumers spend in the local economy. In this humble Editors opinion, there are more obvious places to conserve water than looking at soft targets like the pool industry which actually stimulate the economy and employ a good percentage of Californians.
Olympics in Tokyo a Complete Bust
The Summer Olympics was postponed until this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. For marketing and branding purposes, they are still calling it Tokyo 2020 which is weird, but okay marketing is expensive and to be honest, most of us are just fine with pretending last year never even happened.
This does nothing to address the elephant in the room which is, no one is allowed to attend these Olympic venues and a huge percentage of viewers forgot they were even happening this year. By no means should this diminish the incredible effort the United States swim team is putting on. Already they have won 8 medals and are expected to dominate most of this years 18 different swim events on the program.
There is a stunning new aquatics arena in Tokyo Bay that was built specifically for the Olympics. It’s a brand new facility, that in the normal course of events should have been packed to the rafters with 15,000 fans during a typical Olympic year. Unfortunately, there is nothing normal about this Olympics and spectators are not allowed. The facility which was part of the tremendous $15.4 billion dollar investment Tokyo made in order to win the bid for hosting the Olympics, sits nearly empty for all of this summers Olympic events. In actuality, the final figure for this entire folly will probably be closer to $20 billion making this the most expensive Olympics ever.
A muted opening ceremony was televised to a dramatically reduced audience. With the stadium nearly empty, the momentus energy of the crowd was visibly missing. Most athletes wore face coverings and waved enthusiastically to tens of thousands of empty seats which further cemented the surreal oddity of all. Some athletes practiced social distancing, choosing to march alone, while others grouped together much to the dismay of event organizers. Despite the fact that its delegation has undergone several positive COVID tests since arriving, the Czech Republic joined the other countries in the opening ceremonies.
The opening event for the Olympics drew nearly 17 million viewers in the U.S. which may sound like a lot, but in actuality hit a 33 year low and was down nearly 36% since 2016’s Olympics. The reality is this Olympics has been a complete bust for Japan and the city of Tokyo in particular. The $500,000,000 dollar aquatics center is depressingly empty, and symbolic of the complete disinterest that has many diseffectionately refering to this Olympics as the Pandemic Games. To add insult to injury, the gleaming new insanely expensive facility probably didn’t even need to be built in the first place.
Experts who know the city of Tokyo well say that all of the swim events could have been hosted at the 45,000 seat Tokyo Dome, home of the Yomiuri Giants. Near by Yokohama stadium also seats 17,000 and could have easily hosted the events. The expenditure has been criticized as a needless waste of money. It is difficult to imagine a future for the facility, in fact it is scheduled to be downsized to accommodate 5,000 shortly after the Olympics are over.
The impression of being in a sterile, locked-down quarantine permeates this Olympics according to athletes and participants. There is no amount of simulated cheering and fake cardboard cutout fans that can assuade that feeling. Fans, who would ordinarily be screaming support for their countries and socializing with folks from all over the world in a carnival like atmosphere, have been barred, leaving just a highly vetted group of media, authorities, athletes, and staff.
There is an inescapable feeling of pity for the Japanese people, who will pay a colossal financial price for their government’s overzealous spending and a global pandemic which they had no way to predict would happen.
Feature Photo Credit: ABS / CBN
Too Big To Fail – Olympus Pools Implodes
We first began writing about Olympus Pools back in April of this year after investigative reports broke news that the Land O’ Lakes pool builder was in deep trouble. Allegations of unfinished pools, unpaid subcontractors and distributors and a long list of angry customers put Olympus in the spotlight and for all the wrong reasons.
In the past few months we have had numerous interactions with owner James Staten, James Judge (a PR representative Staten hired to represent Olympus a few months ago), and Jordan Hidalgo, a well known pool builder who had supposedly partnered with Olympus Pools to salvage the ongoing projects they had, as well as the firms battered reputation.
In late May, Olympus Pools had released a press release stating that Jordan Hidalgo, a well respected figure in the pool and spa industry would be taking on co-ownership of Olympus Pools.
However, this week after rumors began circulating about impending foreclosures on homeowners as well as another major blow due to unpaid workers compensation insurance causing a work shut down, Hidalgo released this statement to the media.
“During our due diligence period, it became apparent that the company was not in the same position as it appeared originally,” Hidalgo said a statement on Tuesday. “As a result, I have decided to cut my losses and am walking away from the opportunity. I am hoping the best for Olympus Pools and their customers.”
We reached out to Staten’s PR representative James Judge to get a comment to which he replied “We actually no longer represent Olympus Pools”. His leaving directly coincided with Hidalgo’s announcement.
James Staten responded to Hidalgo’s departure to investigative journalist Shannon Behnken in an email contradicting Hidalgo’s version of the story. Staten stated that Hidalgo was “never able to ‘buy’ even a portion of Olympus,” and said that, “there has been no ‘due diligence period’ and Mr. Hidalgo has failed to perform even his most basic obligations.”
We touched base with Hidalgo this week to get his side of the story to which he replied, “That is an absolute lie. I tried to be classy about this entire thing but I can see he (Staten) is not going to let that happen. There is more information coming out in the media, just wait.” To which Hidalgo eluded that this week there would be a major announcement coming.
Olympus Pools is Out of Business
This morning Olympus Pools officially announced that they will be shutting down operations after the Department of Business and Professional Regulation asked them to surrender their license. This effectively means that Olympus Pools will be unable to continue working on any current projects they have contracted for.
“Over the last several months at Olympus Pools, we have endured constant negative media coverage encouraging viewers to file complaints with Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation. As a result, the DBPR has forced us to voluntarily relinquish our license. This means we are no longer allowed to continue working for any of our customers. We have fought hard and would have continued to do so for as long it took to complete every project.”
“Although we are greatly disappointed in the decision, we understand the pressure that has been placed on the Department to act. We do not feel the decision is beneficial to our community or our customers, however, it was not our decision to make. If it were up to us, we would continue working for our customers.”
“We have enjoyed servicing the Tampa Bay area for close to 10 years. We are proud of the thousands of projects we have built and the work we have done for our community in that time. We are grateful for all of the support the vast majority of our former customers, employees, friends, family, and neighbors have shown us during this time.”
Sources close to the organization disclosed to Pool Magazine that Olympus Pools currently has hundreds of ongoing pool construction projects and anywhere from 50-100 open holes in the ground.
It is expected that a variety of agencies will now descend to perform a collection of assets however, the south showroom for Olympus Pools has been completely emptied out according to a source close to Pool Magazine. How this bodes for the unlucky homeowners who entrusted Olympus Pools with their swimming pool projects remains to be seen, however already many have begun to receive lien and foreclosure notices on their homes.
Featured Photo Credits: WFLA
Sky Pool – One on One with the Manufacturers
An in depth look at the engineering marvel that is the Sky Pool
The iconic Sky Pool in London has finally arrived and the overnight sensation that this pool has become is nothing short of remarkable. One of the most highly anticipated new pool projects, this incredible and instantly iconic pool has been written about incessantly since it was first devised.
This unique see-through acrylic wall pool sits suspended between two towers of the Embassy Gardens in London, England. Recently we had the opportunity to chat with Paul Gardner Vice President of Engineering for Reynolds Polymer, the manufacturers behind this creative and captivating new swimming pool vessel.
In preparation for our meeting, we hopped on one of our favorite social media groups Ask The Masters and found out what questions the pool industry had about the Sky Pool. There were a lot of interesting questions, which was indicative of how fascinated pool builders are about this project.
Sky Pool Has Worldwide Notoriety
We asked Gardner what it was like working on such a high visibility project. “We’re engineers and weren’t thinking about the marketing benefits that early on. Now it’s fun to be on it and we see how exciting it is from that standpoint.” said Gardner.
Given that Reynolds Polymer is a manufacturer of acrylic panels, there are very few companies around the world that could take on a project of the size and magnitude of the Sky Pool. Still, we wanted to know how Reynolds got the nod for this particular project.
A Short List of Manufacturers
“Y’know when you do something crazy with acrylic, there is only a few of us that can do that and really only a few that are willing to do it from an engineering standpoint to come up with a good solution, so the field was pretty narrow to begin with.” said Gardner.
“The client came to us pretty quickly.” said Gardner, “We worked on it a long time just to make sure something like this was even feasible.” Reynolds Polymer would go on to secure the design contract as well as the engineering contract shortly after that.
Engineering Hurdles To Overcome
Ultimately, there are probably only a handful of companies around the world that can take on a project of this scope. “When it comes to being monolithically cast, we’re the only ones that do it like that. All of our competitors will laminate. So, they’ll take thinner sheets and glue them together. But in this case getting a monolithically cast part, enabling us to use some of our other methodologies such as signature bonds, that’s the only way you could have done it.” said Gardner.
This particular project had many engineering challenges Reynolds Polymer had to overcome. One of them was accounting for movement from the actual structure of the building. We asked Gardner what his team did from an engineering standpoint to account for settling and movement between the two buildings.
Sky Pool: Engineering of the Vessel
“The swimming pool itself is set up as really an isolated box. On both ends, the acrylic is sitting in a steel tub and that steel tub is then sitting on concrete columns and supported by bearings. The steel tub and the acrylic vessel are cinched together with 2 tension rods underneath which are the only visible structural elements that you can see other than the acrylic. That creates essentially an open top box that can float depending on the movement of the buildings.” said Gardner.
“It can also be adjusted for settling. If there was enough settling, you could get in there and adjust the height of the bearings with either some shims or whatever was necessary to get it back to level.” continued Gardner.
Determining the Thickness of the Acrylic
Determining the proper thickness for the vessel encompassed doing finite element analysis, a widely used method for numerically solving differential equations arising in engineering and mathematical modeling. “We had lots of different load cases that we were looking at,” said Gardner, “By running through that and looking at like 15 or 20 load cases, we settled on a thickness. The thickness is really driven by long term stress. How much stress the acrylic can see to enable it to last for decades.”
The acrylic itself is resting on two steel tubs on either end that is supported by cementitious grout between the acrylic and the steel shelves the entire U channel structure is sitting on.
“You don’t build this and test it and expect it to fail.” said Gardner. All of Reynolds engineering and structural analysis was confirmed by an independent third party who determined the engineering specifications were precise. The polymer system of the Sky Pool is expected to last for at least 50 years.
Some of the questions we got from the pool industry pertained to actual seismic activity that may cause the structure to shift. We also wanted to know about the usability of the Sky Pool under real world conditions.
“Fortunately, London is not a very seismically active area. If there is such a thing, the pool is set on a system of bearings. It’s fixed on one side, and it’s allowed to move on the other. If there was any differential movement whether that’s seismic or heavy winds, there is ability of that structure to move independent of the pool.” said Gardner.
In playing devil’s advocate, we asked Gardner what the design entailed to keep water from the pool from splashing down below and keep the pool from freezing.
“The walls are about 8 feet high. They would have to splash it over the edge, and there is no reason they couldn’t. You have to have the safety walls up there so that people aren’t doing anything too crazy and hanging over the edge once you’re that high up. Otherwise, people could splash and get things over the edge if they get too wild.” said Gardner.
The pool itself is heated year round so the potential for the vessel freezing is nil. “The water is heated year-round so that water is never going to get an opportunity to freeze to a solid block. Plus, it doesn’t get that cold in London consistently enough to where you could have that happen.” said Gardner in responding to whether a pool freeze could cause damage.
Concealing The Plumbing
The filtration system for the Sky Pool has the pump room on one end of the two towers of Embassy Gardens so the water circulates from one side to the other. With no visible plumbing in the photos we have seen have the Sky Pool, we asked Gardner exactly how they managed to conceal all the plumbing. “You’ll notice a pedestrian bridge just north of the pool itself and there is some pipe work that runs through that pedestrian bridge that takes the water back over to the other side.”
Maintaining The Sky Pool
Another big question that was on our minds as well as many other folks in the pool industry was, how do you clean and maintain a pool that high up? “Obviously the wet side is easy to get to in to clean.” said Gardner, “The dry side… we’re pushing the limits of what you can reach with a man lift on the ground. That’s the process right now. They’ve got a man lift that can go up 10 stories and somebody is cleaning it on the dry side on a regular basis.”
Transporting this massive 175,000-pound acrylic structure to the Embassy Gardens in London was no easy task. “The interesting thing is when we were finally finished with it and ready to get it out of here, in Colorado we were having a bunch of wildfires. Even with the best planning and routing, we had to re-route it because the fires had shut down the highways on the route we wanted to go.” said Gardner.
“We got stuck on the Texas border because Hurricane Laura was coming through Houston which was the port we were going out of. We sat on the Texas border for a day or two waiting for Laura to clear out to where the ports would open back up.” said Gardner.
We followed the progress on Reynolds Polymers social media pretty much the entire way and like many other folks in the pool industry, wondered what the permitting process and logistics process was like. As it turns out transporting the vessel was a massive undertaking that took years of planning and coordination. “Permitting takes you multiple months because we had to get all the escorts lined up. It’s not the first large project for us though. For a small town of Grand Junction, Colorado we move a lot of material out of here.” said Gardner.
It certainly isn’t the first large scale acrylic pool project Reynolds has been involved with. Other incredible projects they have undertaken over the years include world class pools and structures all over the globe.
Reynolds Polymer has made a name for themselves in the pool industry for manufacturing, designing, and engineering over the top see through acrylic pool vessels and aquariums. Their work is rapidly gaining traction with luxury homeowners as well who want their own version of the elaborate Sky Pool in their own backyard.
Due to the incredible amount of attention the Sky Pool has already received, we can imagine there will be high demand for this particular concept. “There has already been inquiries coming in for little Sky Pools” said Gardner. “I think because of the publicity of the Sky Pool, there will definitely be others that want something similar. It’s very attractive to have something that catches the eye and floating water is something that people can’t seem to get enough of.”
Listen to our entire interview with the manufacturers of the Sky Pool on the Pool Magazine Podcast
Watch a video of behind-the-scenes footage of the Sky Pool making its way from Reynolds Polymer’s factory in Colorado all the way to London in the UK.
Article Photos Courtesy of Reynolds Polymer
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