Water saving tips: Pools – nice to have, painful to maintain and expensive to run? Can we save some water and money?


During summer pools can lose up to 1 000 litres of water per day through evaporation; this can be more in shallow, large surface area pools and pools that receive lots of sunshine. Pool covers are available in electric driven, hand wound, solid, soft and net versions. Pool covers are relatively easy to purchase and install; or you can make one from bubble wrap, PVC weld and a few poles. These are good investments in that they save water, keep debris out and your pool will use fewer chemicals.

You do need to be careful of soft, bubble wrap type covers; pets and children can try too walk on the cover and then fall in at the end of the cover and get trapped between the cover and wall. This happened to a family member with a Rottweiler puppy. Rather have the sides locked down if possible or have a safety net over the cover.

Hard, hand driven or electric covers are ideal from a safety and water saving perspective but can cost in excess of R50 000.00. If you have a pool cover the council will allow you to top off the pool when needed.

Backwash recycling system:

Back washing can use between 500 and 1 000l per backwash/rinse cycle and over 2 000 litres per month. Recycling systems capture the water in a tank, allow the dirt too drift to the bottom of the tank and then feed back into the pool. They cost from R 2 500, can be installed in a day and have a small (1m2) footprint. It is not recommended that you put backwash water on the garden. As the water going back into your pool is already treated you will not need to treat “new” water and will thus save on chemical usage.

Rain water harvesting:

A fall of 10mm of rain on 150m2 of roof area will yield 1 275 litres of water; taking into account a 15% loss. We have run roof gutters directly into a pool with a surface area of 32m2; approximately 120m2 of roof drains into the pool. This means that for every 1mm that falls on the pool another 3.5mm runs into the pool; this pool requires a top up only in January, February and maybe March; then only if there is no rain. The guttering is unobtrusive and is permanently installed; you can install a valve to divert the water elsewhere. You can also do a temporary system; see our post on rain water harvesting for details and pictures.


Most pools irrespective of size are fitted with a 750w pump; when they in fact could run on a 400 or 280w pump. The pool, chemical and service companies will advise you to run the pump 12 hours a day in summer and six in winter. You can run between six and 8 hours in summer and for 6 hours twice a week in winter. If you run a 750w pump for 12 hours a day by 365 days a year your bill at current average rates (R1.64kWh) will be R5 387; if you run it for 6 hours your annual bill will be R 2 693.

Should you replace with a 400w pump (+-R 2 500 installed) and run for 12 hours your annual bill will be R 2 873; saving you R 2 514 pa and paying for the pump in 12 months. However, if you ran it for 6 hours a day you will pay R 1 436 and pay off the pump in 9 months. Should you control usage and run 12 hours a week in winter and 6 hours a day in summer your bill will be R 921 pa; paying for the upgrade in 3 months.

Variable speed pumps are available but at around R 7 000 each, these are pricy; however, based on the above figure you should pay it off in a year or so dependent on usage.

Keep in mind that you pay 1.7 times your water bill for every litre you use; as you are billed 70% of your water bill for your sewerage, whether it goes into sewerage or not.

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