Thursday, December 24, 2009

Backyard Pool


While seeking relief from the humid heat we had yesterday I took a plunge in our 

pool. Backyard pools have been in the news lately with a spate of reports of 
young kids tragically drowning in them - with inadequate or missing pool fences 
(which are compulsory in New South Wales).

This is from our local freebie Manly Daily:

Backyard pools concern
THE tragic consequences of inadequate safety in the state’s backyard pools has been highlighted in the 2009 NSW Drowning Report, which shows that 70 per cent of children aged under five who drowned this year did so in a backyard pool.
One hundred and four people drowned in NSW between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009 - nine per cent more than the previous year.
The rate of drowning was higher for most age cohorts compared to the five-year average, the main exception being the 45-54 year age group, which fell dramatically.
The ocean, beaches and rivers accounted for 60 per cent of the locations of drownings and alcohol was a factor in half of all drownings.
But it is the number of children drowning in backyard pools that has safety authorities worried.
And inadequate or sub-standard safety fencing is usually the reason children were able to gain access to the pool in which they drowned, the report reveals.
“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through to pool owners that it is vital to check and maintain pool fences all year around to protect young children from drowning in backyard pools,” Royal Life Saving NSW chief executive officer David Macallister said.
But another factor in the number of child fatalities is the inability of most people to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Community Services Minister Linda Burney has announced the release of a DVD called Home Pool Safety in a Box, which encourages parents to learn CPR and highlights ways to protect children around backyard pools, including increased parental awareness and a greater emphasis on safety education. To get a copy call 9634 3700.

Now, I do have a nagging feeling about our pool for other reasons as well. I feel 
guilty for wasting our precious water in New South Wales and Sydney: the dams 
providing our drinking water are still well below the levels of past averages. 
Furthermore, the fact that the New South Wales State Government decided a few 
years ago that the expensive and energy consuming de-salination plant is needed 
to supplement unreliable water resources is the way to go makes it worse. 
Putting aside the political reasons for the decision, there are some worthwhile 
issues to consider, such as this list of Pros and Cons from an organisation called 
Austconserv ( - AustConserv strives to promote eco friendly 
businesses and creates eco awareness around Australia):

What are the Pros & Cons of Desalination?

So what are the pros and cons of the desalination process as being an alternative means to acquire fresh water? Take a look at the following list:
The Pros
  • A desalination plant can supply millions of litres of water in a particular city, regardless of rainfall.
  • The ocean is considered to be an untapped fresh water resource, so why should it not be used?
  • Desalination guarantees that there will always be a supply of fresh water, even during the drought season.

The Cons
  • The desalination process itself requires a significant amount of energy to operate.
  • The desalination process has an end result of concentrated brine which, when pumped back out to sea, has a potential effect of damaging the sanctity of marine life.
  • Environmentalists believe that desalination will result to increased greenhouse gas emissions.
  • From an overall perspective, building a de-salination plant is not a cost-effective solution at all when compared to other methods like water recycling and harvesting of storm water.

The Verdict: Does Australia Really Need More Desalination Plants?

Currently, there are desalination plants which are being built in Sydney. The locations of desalination plants which are to be built in the near future include Wonthaggi, Victoria and another one in Perth.
As mentioned earlier, the Sydney desalination plant will be powered by renewable energy resources so that the effects of greenhouse gases can be eliminated. Last December of 2007, the government of South Australia also announced that another desalination plant will be built at Port Stanvac in Adelaide.
With such constructions going on, does this mean that there really is a need for the government to be building more desalination plants? Sure, this process of purifying seawater and ridding it of salt for human consumption is a seemingly novel aspect, but there are still environmental issues which need to be addressed.
The desalination process is still an imperfect science, and further studies need to be made to ensure that it will not cause further harm to the environment.
However, given the fact that the shortage of water supply is something that Australians face on a seasonal basis - especially during drought - this alternative solution of adding more desalination plants is something that is worth pursuing.

Note though, that our situation could be worse: we could be using electricity to warm the pool the year round. We don't, we use solar heating to extend our swimming season by a couple of months, during the summer we don't need to heat it at all (the overall that makes about 8 months of pleasant swimming).

David Hockney
Sun On The Pool 1982
Composite Polaroid, 24 3/4 x 36 1/4 in.

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