Water Quality – Water Chemistry Basics

RWIs may be caused by infections carried into the water by bathers, or certain chemicals that build up in the water. Types of infections include gastrointestinal, dermal and respiratory. Key factors include the concentration of the disinfectant, the chemical form of the chlorine or bromine, pH and time.  Here are some water chemistry basics that you need to know.

Disinfection occurs when a disinfecting agent in the water oxidizes vital components in germs and kills them before they can contact and infect bathers. This takes seconds for bacteria and only a few minutes for others. The only infectious RWI not easily controlled by chlorine is cryptosporidium. Outbreaks from all the other germs (E.coli, shigellanorovirusgiardiaLegionella and pseudomonas) would completely stop if we diligently maintained the free chlorine at 1 ppm or more.

While chlorine is the disinfectant used in nearly all facilities, some opt for bromine. Regardless of the type used (stabilized, unstabilized or salt generator) once dissolved, chlorine is chlorine. When chlorine reacts with organic material, including germs, it may form salt or chloramines. Also called disinfection byproducts, chloramines cause rashes, eye irritations and respiratory complaints.

Testing makes certain there is enough free chlorine to kill the germs and not too much chloramines. Optimal free chlorine should be to 2.0 to 4.0 ppm, and there should be no chloramines. The practical limit for chloramines varies, but up to 0.2 ppm is acceptable for most facilities. If you can smell the pool or get eye or skin complaints, chloramines are to blame. Facilities must test free and combined chlorine at least three times per day, more if local codes require it. Even facilities with automatic controls still must test manually at least once per day.

Balancing the water protects the financial investment in the facility. Water balance factors are pH, alkalinity, hardness, temperature and total dissolved solids (TDS).

A critical factor in water balance and disinfection is pH, which is the amount of acid in the water. The preferred pH range is 7.2 to 7.8. This keeps the chlorine active and is the most comfortable for bathers. Check the pH at least once per day.

Alkalinity is the buffer that stops swings in pH. Alkalinity is the amount of bicarbonate (baking soda) dissolved in the water. Optimal alkalinity is 80 to 120 ppm. Check alkalinity at least once per week or when make-up water is added.

Hardness is the amount of calcium dissolved in the water. Too little and the plaster and metal components are eaten away; too much and the surfaces get scales. Optimal hardness for pools is 200 to 400 ppm. Check hardness at least once per month, or when makeup water is added.

For an aquatics facility to run safely, an operator has to juggle all the factors and keep all the parts in the air at the same time.

To determine whether the water is balanced, measure each factor separately and then plug the numbers into an equation. Allowing the disinfectant level to drop, even in periods when the facility is idle, is just like juggling that 12-inch butcher knife with your eyes closed. Let the water balance slip and that bowling ball can break your foot. The best place to learn to juggle your water quality is in an accredited class. Friends in the industry and seminars at shows can help you polish basic skills. They may even help you learn how to add flaming batons into the mix!

Aquatic Revenue Generators

Here are some Aquatic Revenue Generators that can help your earnings.

Special programming

When it comes to special programming and events, the goal is to create a memorable experience that sets you apart from everyone else in town. For example, did you know Santa can swim? Instead of just having Santa visit for a holiday party, hire a swimming Santa who will hop in the water and pose for photos in the pool with the kiddos.

Birthday splash parties are another way to generate revenue. Parents will gladly pay for value and convenience, so make sure the cost to the customer is packed with value. A package that includes themed decorations, room rental, food and swimming will practically sell itself.

Scout merit badge programs also are wildly popular. Design a special aquatic program that meets all the badge requirements of the Boy and/or Girl Scouts. Usually in under an hour, the Scout has earned a new badge and your facility is bringing in new dollars.

Specialized aquatic fitness classes are another option to boost revenue, and make a tremendous difference in the community.

One idea might be to create pocket water fitness classes for groups such as cancer survivors or new and expectant mothers. These individuals may be facing significant physical changes that could make it uncomfortable to be around others when in swimsuits. Specialized classes offer a supportive and safe environment that will help foster a healthy mind and body.

You might also consider offering kayak clubs or scuba classes.These activities can take up a considerable amount of programming space, so you’ll want to look at scheduling them during slow times, such as on Sunday mornings before the pool is open for general swimming. The clubs pay a premium for space and your profit margins increase due to low staffing requirements.

Beyond the specialized options, think about becoming a hub for general health, fitness and safety by offering a mix of dry options. Use classroom or deck space — and consider partnering with your local American Red Cross to provide community classes such as pet CPR, baby-sitting and first aid. Once the people are at your facility, it’s the perfect opportunity to showcase your aquatic offerings.

Finally, tap into the power of free “teaser classes.”Parents waiting for kids in swim lessons are a great audience. When they want to learn more, provide help registering them for the next regular class session.

Partnerships and sponsorships

Create simple, inexpensive business partnerships and sponsorships for your camps, classes and operations.

It’s likely that an entity such as a local bank would jump at the chance to sponsor swim lessons for $1 or $2 per child. This type of sponsorship helps keep the fees reasonable for customers, and your bottom line will see a big increase.

You could also seek sponsorships for lifeguard uniforms. For a fee, place a tasteful and appropriately sized sponsorship logo with a tag such as “Helping to keep our kids safe — XYZ Bank.”

Beverage vendors are a great asset to any special event. Most have in-house print shops that can create professionally designed signs and banners for your programs — leaving you with more dollars to spend adding value to the occasion.

Donations and in-kind support

Donations and in-kind support can provide valuable revenue, but like partnerships, these are two-way ventures. Free passes to the pool are always a hot item, but make sure free passes are just that, free. Stipulations of a “buy one, get one free” (BOGO) or limiting when recipients can redeem the ticket likely will devalue the incentive.

One great way to utilize donations is to visit local classrooms and present on water safety topics, then hand out free tickets to come to the pool. Look at your donations as an opportunity to gain new customers and generate new dollars. When people use the free pass to come to the pool, you can further encourage them to visit concessions, sign up for a class or purchase a birthday party package.

Overall, when looking for new ways to generate dollars for your swimming pool, embrace change and diversity; keep watch for trends; don’t be afraid to make some waves; and remember these quick tips:

  • Programming must be high quality and value-packed. Strive to make your classes and events memorable.
  • Look for innovative ways to add value. What would you want if you were a customer at your pool?
  • Create public awareness through donations and partnerships.Use creative ways to get folks through the doors, and then show them everything your facility has to offer.

Aquatic Marketing Forces

Aquatic Marketing Forces with traditional media is becoming a dinosaur

Billboards, print and broadcast advertising still exist because they work to create brand recognition. But these opportunities are expensive for small budget marketing strategies.

If you are going to use these vehicles for advertising, make sure your ad will get noticed; otherwise, you’re wasting money.

Generally, successful use of traditional media is based on the old principle of location. You have to find opportunities that cater to your market. For example, look for billboards placed in high-traffic areas or — if you’re in an area with a large Hispanic or Latino community — Spanish language radio stations.

Beyond advertising, traditional media also offer public relations opportunities. Share timely information and encourage journalists to develop positive stories about your facility.

Online communication channels

No matter what type of facility you have, your market NEEDS the Internet, and likely, you need to use it daily. First and foremost, maximize exposure through your Website by making sure you provide ample amounts of information. There is nothing worse than clicking on a Website and discovering that the information you need is not included. Focus on basic information such as facility hours. Also talk with your IT person or Web site manager about increasing your market exposure via your Website. Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most common tools for expanding online visibility. Strategic SEO makes a site more visible to search engines such as Google. It involves taking your existing Web site and tweaking wording and other factors to trigger more responses when someone types key words into a given search engine.

Finally, don’t overlook social media. Millions of people use it and you should, too. It’s a convenient way for patrons to learn about your facility.

Because social media is, by nature, an interactive two-way communication channel, it also provides a way to develop a dialogue. One smart way of using social media is positioning yourself as an expert. Stay away from the “hard sell” and focus on providing information.

Also use social media by following popular blogs in your area. Provide bloggers with information as you would any other media outlet.

Partnerships and live marketing

Don’t underestimate the value of partnerships and face-to-face “people power.”

Using partnerships is beneficial because it makes your marketing team bigger. It may seem like you will be doing more work by promoting other venues or services, but the return on your investment will make it worth the effort. Splitting the work with another facility fosters rapport with your shared customers, especially if you are partnering with a complementary service organization. Partnering with other recreation or fitness facilities can be a win-win, allowing both operations to tap an entirely new customer base.

Beyond partnerships, look for opportunities to communicate face to face. Show your market you care by encouraging your staff to volunteer at community events. You also might consider other opportunities such as sponsoring trash pickups, coat drives or food drives.

One of the best ways to stay connected is by becoming familiar with the “thought leaders” in your community. Get to know community leadership and let them get to know you, so that you can work together to find mutually beneficial ways to increase your exposure.

Promotions

People love free stuff. It’s an indisputable fact. With budget cuts, many facilities don’t have marketing budgets and shun the idea of spending money to market their facilities. However, the bonuses often outweigh the costs. Promotions are something to consider.

For example, if your market supports it, take advantage of Facebook check-in or foursquare. These services allow people to “check-in” at your facility and share it with friends. When people participate by checking-in, you can reward them by offering something in return, such as a free day pass after 20 visits. This kind of giveaway generally doesn’t cost much if you get creative. Don’t make the prize unattainable, but don’t let everyone earn it either.

If you can use these suggestions to create an effective marketing strategy, then you’ve become a lion tamer.

Aquatic Customer Service

Second only to safety is the USA white glove aquatic customer service experience.  We strive to make every guest feel welcomed and attended too.  During our Team Member training we coach these very important customer service steps:

  • USA knows who the boss is: We are in business to service customer needs, and we can only do that if we know what our customer wants. When we truly listen to our customers, they let us know what they want and how we can provide better service. We never forget that the customer pays our salary and makes our jobs possible.
  • USA is a good listener: We take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what our customer is really saying. We listen to their words, tone of voice, body language, and most importantly, we want to know how they feel. We try to be aware of making assumptions.
  • USA identifies and anticipates needs: We know our customers don’t buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more we know our customers, the better we become at anticipating their needs. We communicate regularly so that you are aware of problems or upcoming needs.
  • USA makes our customers feel important and appreciated: We treat them as individuals. We use their name and we try to find ways to compliment them, by being sincere. We know that people value sincerity. It creates good feelings and trust. We like to “Thank” our customers every time we get a chance.
  • USA tries to help our customers understand our systems: Our organization has some of the best and time tested systems for getting things done, but if our customers don’t understand them, they get confused, impatient and angry. We take time to explain how your systems work and how they will simplify transactions.
  • USA appreciates the power of “Yes”: We always look for ways to help our customers. When our customers have a request (as long as it is reasonable) we tell them that we can do it. We work really hard to always do what we say we will do.
  • USA works on how to apologize: When something goes wrong, sincerely apologize. It’s not always easy but our customers deserve it. Our customers may not always be right, but we understand that our customer must win and be served. We try to deal with problems immediately and let our customers know what we have done. We try to make it simple for complaints. We will value the complaint and it gives us an opportunity to improve. Even if our customer is having a bad day, we try to go out of our way to make them feel comfortable.
  • USA works on getting regular feedback: We encourage and welcome suggestions about how we can improve our services.
  • USA treats our entire Team well: Our staffs are our internal customers and we regular recognize and appreciate them. We thank them and provide ways to let them know just how important they truly are. We treat our people with respect and trust that this level of respect will translate into a higher regard for customer care. We know that appreciation starts at the top. Treating customers and our people well is equally important to USA.

Aquatic Consulting Services

Aquatic Consulting Services;

Whether you have a new aquatic facility or an existing facility, periodic reviews of your physical plant, aquatic programs, fees and revenue stream, and day to day operations must be a scheduled part of your processes.  USA consulting efforts are comprised of over 150 years of combined aquatic facility experience and we design our service to fit your particular facility’s needs.  USA has assisted thousands of organizations over the years to help improve their daily operations and revenue stream.  These services included:

  • Recreation revenue
  • Lessons and programs revenue
  • Competition revenue
  • Therapy & Wellness revenue
  • Facility Inspection
  • Feasibility Study
  • Capital Investment and Planning
  • Emergency Response Management
  • Marketing, Branding, & Promoting Plan

Research shows that “recreational” users prefer to have shallower and warmer water to allow for extended stays and socialization.  It also shows that recreational users provide 75% of the revenue that can be generated from aquatics facilities.  Newer recreational aquatic facilities that install fun features, similar to playground equipment, waterslides suitable for multiple age groups, different water depths from zero-depth beach entries to diving areas; and other popular features such as lazy rivers and current channels invite the recreational user to stay longer and visit more frequently. Additionally, modern facilities include more creature comforts for extended stays such as shade areas, lounge chairs, picnic tables, lockers, and concession areas.

Research for “lesson & program” users that frequent aquatic facilities for the purpose of instruction for swim lessons, lifeguard training, water safety, water aerobics classes, scuba diving, etc. need appropriate spaces for teaching and training. These spaces are usually competitive and recreational style pools. Swim lessons are typically the largest of instructional classes and are considered a life-safety skill necessary to promote water safety for patrons.  Some communities have even made learning to swim a requirement at their public school programs. New recreational style pools have increased children’s desires to participate in swim lessons in order to be allowed to play and interact with other children. Lesson & programming users typically provide 20% of the revenue from aquatic facilities.

Research for a “competition” user requires a swimming pool that meets the dimensions of the NFSHS (High School Standards), NCAA (Collegiate Standards), USA Swimming (Club Team Standards), and/or FINA (International Standards).  This user also prefers deeper and colder water to increase the competitive abilities of the pool. The primary distance for competitive swimming in the US is 25 yards. Only FINA and USA Swimming’s summer program requires a 50 meter dimension. Competition groups are a small but dedicated group of users who have demonstrated that they will drive long distances for practicing and competitive meets. One commonly used rule in planning for competition pools for high school swim teams is to provide one competition pool per public high school.  While it is true that a year round indoor competition pool can generate year round revenue and user fees – the cost of operating such a facility GREATLY reduces the net income generated.  Research has found that competition users typically generate only about 3% of the revenue from aquatic facilities.

Therapy usage is currently the fastest growing aquatic user group. New research provides evidence of the benefits of aquatic exercise. While aerobic dance and cycling have decreased by 17.3% and 23.2%, respectively, from 1998-2007, aquatic exercise increased by 25% from 2004-2007. This group requires a small body of warm water that can offer a variety of classes and programs from water aerobics to exercise lap swimming. Therapy and wellness program usage typically generates about 2% of the net revenue from aquatic facilities.

Prior to and during the 1960’s many neighborhood public pools were filled daily with potable water and drained. Concerns over infectious disease outbreaks resulted in more stringent sanitation codes. Additionally, as the codes became more stringent and liability concerns increased – many public pools began to lose features such as diving boards, small water slides and deep water.  Shallow wading pools became suspect and increased operating costs and ever-increasing competition for recreation time led to decreased pool attendance and the closure of many pools throughout the United States. Beginning in the late 1970’s the “water park” concept was developed with more exciting water features such as wave pools, a variety of water slides, and lazy rivers. In the early 1980’s, public operators began to incorporate some of these features into their municipal aquatic facilities to re-attract aquatic recreation users and to increase revenue to offset the cost of operations.  In the early 1990’s community builders started catching on to this trend and developed neighborhoods with small aquatic features.