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“Water balance”, a term that is often bandied about when the discussion revolves around swimming pools, but what does it really mean and, equally important, why is it important?
Firstly, the what – in broad terms, water balance (also called the chemical balance) refers to an optimal balance of the following parameters – pH, alkalinity, total hardness and Total Dissolved Solids. These will be discussed in more detail shortly.
Secondly, the why – Although good circulation, filtration and sanitization are critical components of a swimming pool, it is also very important to carefully manipulate the chemical balance in the pool water for several reasons:
Potentially dangerous pathogens, such as bacteria, could be present in the water and therefore presents a perfect place for disease-carrying micro-organisms that could be passed from one person to another. When the chemical balance of the water is correct, the possibility of this transfer of pathogens is not possible and thus creates a safe and healthy environment for the swimmers.
When the pool water is chemically incorrect, it is quite possible for various parts of the pool and related equipment to be damaged. Here we are talking about two main areas – firstly the inside of the pool in the form of the fittings and lights, the tiles and tile grout; and secondly, the equipment such as the pumps and control boxes in the machine or pump-room. Both of these areas have the potential to become very expensive and frustrating.
When pool water is not properly balanced, it can lead to irritation of the eyes and skin. This is obviously very unpleasant and potentially costly, especially for property owners with commercial or communal pools.
An improperly balanced pool can result in very cloudy water which does not look good and is potentially unsafe. Again, a situation that is very much unwanted in commercial and communal pools specifically.
Let’s have a look at the basic parameters of water (or chemical) balance in a swimming pool:
pH: This is the measure of the positive Hydrogen in the water. The normal range is normally shown as 7.2 to 7.6; keeping in mind that a pH of 7.0 is neutral (the pH scale goes from 0 to 14). When the pH becomes too low or more acidic, e.g. less than 6.8, the water becomes more corrosive and this can cause damage to tiles, grouting and pool liners, pool pumps and electrical equipment in the machine room. Needless to say, the effect on your eyes and skin will become very uncomfortable. When the pH becomes too high, e.g. more than 8.2, then it creates an environment for micro-organisms and also causes sanitizers such as chlorine, to become significantly less effective. It can also start to cause scaling.
Alkalinity: Also referred to as TA (total alkalinity), this is often seen as the forgotten family member. Most commonly available test kits do not test for Alkalinity. However, TA goes hand in hand with pH and basically forms a buffer that protects the pH from sudden changes. It is generally accepted that a desired range for TA would be 80 to 120 ppm (parts
per million). People often cannot understand why their pool, with a pH of 7.4 suddenly starts to change, especially following a rain storm or a pool party. More than likely the TA is way too low and thus offers very little protection or buffering for the pH.
Total Hardness: Often called Calcium Hardness. This is an important part of the water balance and the desired range for the calcium component in the water is between 200 to 400 ppm. Again, available test kits do not test for this.
TDS: This stands for Total Dissolved Solids and is basically a measure of all solids or particles in a body of water. This is not commonly tested.
By ensuring that your swimming pool water has a good water balance, you will have a swimming pool with water that looks beautiful, is safe and healthy to swim in and will not cause an expensive chemical bill at the end of each month.
Why not take a water sample from your swimming pool to your swimming pool professional, for example Sunshine Samui Pools close to Big C on the Ring Road, and have the water tested? This will provide you with a baseline to work from and get to understand your swimming pool better.