By Warren Tenney
As you fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport bright blue dots mark thousands of backyard pools. For decades, backyard pools have been as common as sunshine in Valley neighborhoods. Many families can’t imagine living in the Phoenix Metro area without a swimming pool, while others have outgrown their pools. Over the last 20 years the rate of new pools being put into homes has declined. Unused pools have begun to languish in backyards demanding to be cleaned and repaired. Some are empty, others leaking from neglect.
A recent study showed that between 2006 and 2013 for every five new residential pools built in Maricopa County, three were removed. In another indication of this downward trend, one Phoenix-based excavating company reported that its pool removals had increased 25 percent each year since 2014. The City of Scottsdale wants to encourage this trend. Scottsdale is the first City in Arizona to offer residents a water conservation rebate to remove their pools and spas. The water conservation rebate provides up to $1,500 to offset some of the expenses.
This new water conservation rebate gives extra incentive to a tough challenge. Pools lose water through leaks and evaporation. A pool will lose its entire volume of water to evaporation within one year. During the summer, a 400-square-foot pool will lose 10 inches a month or about 2,500 gallons to evaporation. Pool leaks can be hard to spot. Leaks are most often found in pool equipment and can leave a wet spot (that can evaporate quickly) or white crusty mineral deposits on pipes. (Here’s help from AMWUA’s Smart Home Water Guide to locate pool leaks.)
If you’re thinking about removing your pool, here are three things to consider.
1. Check with your city to determine if you need a permit. Each city has different rules. Some cities, such as Scottsdale, will require that you pay for a permit. Removing a pool means disconnecting pool equipment from your electrical panel. A Scottsdale city inspector will review the final project to assure the electrical work was done correctly. You are also required to put holes in the bottom of the pool, as the holes allow rainwater to drain into the ground.
2. The least reliable way to remove a pool is to do it yourself unless you have equipment that can compact each foot of dirt used to backfill the pool. Without proper compacting, the fill dirt can settle within six months and create a depression or sink hole where the pool was. Any irrigation equipment and landscaping you planted to cover the pool area will be damaged or lost.
3. Contractors will give you a few options for ways to remove your pool. Here are the three options offered by one Phoenix excavating company. 1.) The least costly is to create a hole in the bottom of the pool, cap off plumbing, disconnect electric and remove pool equipment, then backfill and compact the dirt. 2.) The second least costly technique includes removing decking and about 12 inches to 18 inches of the top of the pool shell, place it into the hole and then backfill and compact the dirt. These techniques cost less but some cities may not permit you to build on top of the pool area or require further soil compacting. 3.) The most expensive option is to remove the deck and pool shell completely. Check with Arizona’s Registrar of Contractors and Better Business Bureau before hiring help to remove your pool.
So what is it going to cost? We put that question to the folks at Imperial Excavating, a Phoenix-based company that removes two to three pools a week throughout the Valley during the busy winter season. The first two partial removal techniques typically cost $2,800 and $3,800. The total removal is about $6,000. That makes Scottsdale’s pool and spa removal rebate look pretty good. Here are basics about the rebate.
- The amount of the rebate is 50 cents per square foot based on the surface square footage of your pool. Once completed, your rebate will appear on your bill.
- Expect the City to ask for photos and to conduct pre and post inspections.
- You must landscape the space where the pool had been.
- You have six months to complete the project after the pre-inspection date.
This new rebate is based on a first-come-first-served basis. If you are considering removing your pool, Scottsdale is waiting for your application. You could start a new trend in your neighborhood.
Each city develops and updates its conservation programs to address its customers’ unique situation. Rebates available through cities will vary. Here is a list of rebates offered by AMWUA member cities.
For 46 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit www.amwua.org.