April 19, 2004
No Diving in the Pasta Water
By Steve Friess
Chlorinated pools have long left
swimmers with stinging eyes and smelly hair; the ocean's got
seaweed and lots of salt. But now the hottest trend in cooling
off is a hybrid: saltwater swimming pools. Modest but adequate
amounts of chlorine can be released from normal table salt (a.k.a.
sodium chloride, for you English majors) when the water is passed
through a special electrical cell. In saline swimming pools,
salt is dumped in at a rate of about 35 pounds per 1,000 gallons
of water; the natural chlorination process kills off algae and
bacteria without introducing abrasive byproducts, says Michael
Gregg of Zodiac Pool Care.
It's unclear how many of the more than 160,000 pools installed
last year use the process, which was developed in Australia
in the 1970s but only began to take off in the United States
in recent years. "Saline is definitely on the rise," says Suzanne
Darrow of the National Spa & Pool Institute, an industry trade
group. Still, the units aren't cheap-it costs $1,400 or more
to retrofit an existing pool. A downside: the process leaves
the water with a vaguely salty pall, but owners say it's minimal.
"It's not that salty," says Stephen LoCascio of Palm Springs,
Calif. "It's like swimming in pasta water." Yum.