Swimming Pools and Geographies of Water Consumption

by Fiona Ferbrache

The usual quiet in my office is punctuated by the sound of machinery.  The owners of the adjacent property are installing a swimming pool in their garden.  I live in a French village of twenty houses and this aquatic addition will bring the total to six pools in this rural hamlet.  Swimming pools are said to be an increasingly common feature in the geography of southern Europe, and I cannot help wondering what impact this will have on local water resources.

Swimming pools represent an example of new patterns of resource use.  Vidal, Domene and Sauri’s (2011) Area article explores the nature of water consumption in Barcelona, with a particular focus on the way that swimming pools have contributed to domestic water consumption.  They draw attention to events in Barcelona in 2008 when the city experienced its most severe drought in sixty years.  Combined with population growth, enormous pressure was placed on water resources to the extent that water had to be shipped into the city by tanker.  Perhaps surprisingly, Vidal et al.’s paper helps to dispel certain myths by showing that pools account for less than 1% of all domestic water consumption in the study area.  This leads the authors to ask why pools raise such concern and opposition when water consumption is relatively low compared with other uses (watering gardens, for example).

Despite these findings, areas with swimming pools are so heterogeneous that they will continue to shape important questions for public authorities regarding water supplies, and foster the need for further geographies of water consumption.

Vidal, M., Domene, E. and Sauri, D. (2011) Changing geographies of water-related consumption: residential swimming pools in suburban Barcelona. Area. 43.1. pp.67-75

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