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A Negative Edge Pool in the Bahamas – Lessons Learned

A version of this post was just published in WaterShapes Magazine! CLICK HERE

While it’s always better to prevent problems before they arise, it can be satisfying to fix things after they’ve gone wrong – to come to the rescue, so to speak. 

The frustrating irony in our case at SRK Pools is that every problem we see, almost without exception, could have been easily avoided had we been involved when the project was originally designed and built. 

Fact is, when you look at the way the pool industry at large does things, there’s usually a better way. The problem is that most people don’t even realize that the formula for perfect water quality is available. And as a result, they’re often forced into compromises they don’t know they’re making. 

To illustrate my point, here’s a great story of failure and redemption. 

TO THE BAHAMAS

I was attending a cocktail party at a national pool convention when I met a landscape architect who looked like he was almost literally crying in his drink. He was distraught over an ocean-front project he had designed on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. The swimming pool, a gorgeous vanishing edge affair that was a central feature in a truly beautiful property, had completely fallen apart in a matter of months. 

The owner was livid and the situation was so bad, he had come to the pool show looking for help. He described a host of familiar problems that we deal with all the time: terrible water quality, failing finish materials, and all sorts of confusing maintenance nightmares. 

I told this highly talented yet forlorn landscape architect that we’d be happy to help. 

FINDING THE PROBLEM(S)

The pool was using a saltwater chlorination system and cartridge filters – both extremely popular options that I have come to believe are at the heart of many common water treatment problems. 

While there are many people out there – qualified professionals among them – who advocate for salt water systems and cartridge filtration, I can only disagree. This project was a perfect example. 

The water chemistry was wildly out of balance, with high calcium and pH but alkalinity of almost zero. There was a beautiful coral material used inside the pool that is rather famously at home in saltwater, but was practically falling apart right before everyone’s eyes. 

The cartridge filters were undersized and were loading up at light speed. On top of all that, the source water on the island was extremely aggressive – but only during certain times. It’s treated by way of reverse osmosis, which requires adding calcium to the water after it has been filtered. Otherwise, the water is so aggressive it destroys almost everything it touches.

The problem on Paradise Island is that sometimes, they don’t balance the reverse osmosis water, and it can flip water balance very quickly when added to a pool as fill water. Unfortunately, the existing pool did not have any kind of automated chemical balance technology, so the system had no way to adjust to fluctuating water chemistry conditions. 

Suffice it to say that although it was one of the more aesthetically beautiful pools and settings I’ve ever seen, functionally speaking, it was a nightmare. I was disturbed to learn that the system had been designed by a highly reputable aquatic consultant. 

I’m not entirely sure if the problems were due to the original design and specification, or if it was the original builder who didn’t follow the plans. My hunch is they were due to a bit of both, but the end result was a system that was catastrophically inadequate. 

A FRESH START

The owner, a woman of considerable means, was not particularly concerned with what it would cost – she just wanted it fixed so she could fully enjoy the experience of swimming in her beautiful pool. We wasted no time trying to correct the existing system and set immediately to work gutting the whole thing and starting over. 

We replaced the inadequate cartridge filters with a large sand unit, which I’ve come to believe is the best filtration medium for pools. This is a point of view that puts me at odds with others in the industry. The results I achieve using sand, however, are so superior that it’s never an issue once installed. 

The saltwater was drained and the pool’s interior coral surface was replaced – erasing all evidence of past mistakes. We replaced the system with our own combination of ozone, UV and tightly controlled low doses of chlorine. We added water balance monitors and an automated CO2 injection system. We reconfigured the plumbing and set everything up exactly per our own internal specifications. 

When the client saw the water and went for her first swim, she practically flipped! On one hand, she was beyond thrilled with the water quality – having what could only be described as a “powerful emotional reaction” to the way it looked and felt. On the other hand, she was absolutely livid at her project team for not bringing to her attention the fact that this type of treatment system was even available. 

THE LESSON

I believe there’s a lesson here – especially for the pool and spa industry as a whole. That lesson is: don’t be afraid to offer clients the best. Yes, our systems are comparatively expensive. But I’ve always believed we should present the best and let the client decide whether or not it’s too costly. 

BETTER CHOICES

We’ve found that when people experience our water – SRK water – they often decide it’s worth the investment. They always get what they pay for, with no exceptions. We never leave our clients dissatisfied with the results.

In this situation, the client could easily afford the best. What’s more, she had been demanding the best. But because the professionals she was working with didn’t know any better, they gave her a salt system and a bank of cartridge filters. Before we stepped in, the client basically had a pool that didn’t work. When she finally experienced what was possible with our system, she realized that she had been badly underserved – if not actually betrayed. 

After we installed the new custom SRK water system, we made sure the client’s property managers and maintenance staff had all the information and training needed to maintain it. Maintenance is relatively easy to do because the automated system fixes water quality issues immediately – before they can do any damage. The system just hums along, ensuring perfect water quality around the clock.  

Interesting postscript: about a year or so after we completed our work recreating the client’s system, she decided to build an entire outbuilding to house the mechanical equipment. This was no shed or typical equipment vault. The building was spacious and had a beautiful architectural design. Plus, it was climate controlled, ventilated, well lit, and 100% devoted to the pool equipment. That’s how much she fell in love with the water quality our system generates. 

WATER, BLOGGED!

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A blog about all things water, written by SRK's founder Steve Kenny.