In the North, the boom in private pools raises questions

Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2022 at 12:42 PM

“When I was a kid, I would never have imagined having a swimming pool!” Clotilde marvels as she splashes her nephew in a brand new family pool in Ferlingheim (North). As temperatures rise, these constructions are proliferating in Hauts-de-France, raising questions at a time when France is running out of water.

Orange badges and heavy laughter, Basile, 3, spins over water in his father’s arms. “This swimming pool brings another dynamic to family life,” Clotilde Sanz says. For her, her sisters and their children, the parental home for a few months was “more a place for life, a reunion”.

Born from confinement, “This project is changing our lives. Once we wake up, we’re on vacation!” His father, Frédéric Sanz, is enthusiastic, who will now “much more” hesitate to travel in the summer.

“Since the Covid-19 crisis, we have doubled our sales by seven,” confirms Vincent Price, Commercial Director of Sensassion Piscine, its installer. “When I started in 2003, we sold about twenty years. Today, we have sold over a hundred.”

According to the Federation of Swimming Pool Professionals (FPP), of the 3.2 million private pools existing in France at the end of 2021, 135,000 were in Hauts-de-France, compared to less than 30,000 in 2005.

– “Nonsense” –

Only 7% of single homes are equipped with them in the area, but the rise in temperatures helps “the market develop,” notes FPP General Delegate Joëlle Pulinx-Challett.

“Swimming pools are also getting smaller and cheaper,” providing “access to less affluent clients,” notes Lauren Peet, seller of “prepared” pools.

In a garden with burnt grass in Leforest (Pas-de-Calais), a client helps finish his swimming pool. This part of the section has not yet been placed on the Drought Alert, which leaves the possibility of filling it in.

“We are always moving against the wall. Restrictive measures must be taken early,” laments Arnaud Gauthier, a research professor in water at the University of Lille.

At a time when France is experiencing its worst drought since 1959, “building swimming pools is nonsense,” he said. He pointed out that some French municipalities “are seriously considering amending local urban plans to limit their construction.”

In 2020, each French person consumed an average of 148 liters of drinking water per day (54 m3/year), according to the National Observatory for Water and Sanitation Services (Sispea). With large geographical variations: 232 liters in the Maritimes Alps, compared to 116.6 liters in the north. According to Sisby, the “climate and potential impact of swimming pools” partly explains this.

– “Scapegoat” –

Joëlle Pulinx-Challett answers: “Private swimming pools represent 0.1% of all water consumption in France.” If the first filling is spent (about 45 m3), the water is replenished only by a third every year.

“This could represent 15% of a household’s consumption,” analyzes Nicholas Roche, a researcher at the European Center for Research and Education in Environmental Geosciences (CEREGE). But “irrigating your 100m2 garden for a month will consume ten times more,” he adds, calling for “avoiding the scapegoat policy.”

He stresses that water, which is essential for all activities, will be more scarce in the future and “priority uses” must be identified locally. He advocates “giving an environmental value to water”, at volatile prices in the summer “when it is least available”, and according to “essential” or “recreational” uses.

In the Artois-Picardie Basin, “the volume available annually is now fully used, and we no longer have any margin,” warns the director of the Regional Water Agency, Thierry Vatin. A third is consumed during the summer, especially for agriculture, whose needs are increasing. “With recreational uses in excess on top of that, we are overexploiting.”

“Our goal is to reduce consumption by 10% within six years,” he says. The division between user types should soon be defined within Local Committees including all parties. “Everyone will have to save money.”

Some elected officials advocate progressive pricing: a free volume of water to meet basic needs, then a high price above a certain limit.

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