The heat wave in France and temperatures exceeding 40 degrees have created a rare phenomenon. A boom in the construction of private pools in all the country. A “democratization” that includes the entire social ladder of the country. With a contradiction: the water tables are so low that the authorities they prohibit filling the pools in the face of water restrictions in many regions.
Thus, they have remained sophisticated ornament in the gardenif they were not filled before the summer .
Many of the municipal swimming pools, which exist in every neighborhood in Paris and in the interior of the country, are also mostly closed because post-war energy costs in Ukraine prevent municipal authorities from face the expenses to maintain them.
Private pool boom
France has about 3.2 million private poolsincluding 1.55 million in-ground pools and 1.64 million above-ground pools, according to the latest figures from the Federation of Pool Professionals (FPP), published in April 2022, which reaffirmed France’s position as European leader in the construction of swimming pools.
This means that France has a private pool for few people. All regions are affected by the increase in the number of swimming pools: 135,000 in Hauts-de-France when there were less than 30,000 in 2005. A consequence of climate change and the COVID lockdown.
“In 2021, the sector increased by 244,000 swimming pools and the turnover of swimming pool specialists increased by 32% in one year, thanks to the ‘booster’ effect of Covid-19 and the favorable climate,” Joëlle Pulinx Challet told AFP. general delegate of the FPP, which brings together more than 1,400 French companies specializing in swimming pools and spas.
In 30 years, the size of the pools has gone from more than 70m3 to 43. The average price is currently 24,000 euros, depending on the level of equipment and the regions.
Some owners, especially around Paris, they rent them by the hour. Through the Swimmy p, they can enjoy at least 3 hours in the pool at 20 euros an hour less than 20 minutes from the French cital. There can be no more than six people per shift.
“With this heat and the lack of air conditioning in Paris, this is the most effective solution for me. It takes me less than to get to Normandy, which is two and a half hours by car and a world on the road. There are some formidable ones”, says Jeane, an American businesswoman, assigned to an investment bank in the French cital.
Tax authorities are taking advantage of the boom: with drones they look for undeclared swimming pools to collect taxes. A neighbor managed to win a battle: his pool was inflatable and he refused to pay it because it was temporary. Finally prevailed and the tax yielded.
Should they ban private pools? The green deputy Julien Bayou has his own idea about it. “I’m not saying no,” he slipped on BFMTV. Faced with the increase in controversy on social networks, the national secretary of Europa-Ecologie-les-Verts (EELV) then clarified his thoughts, on Twitter: “Due to lack of anticipation, there are already restrictions on the use of water, to wash cars and, sometimes to fill, swimming pools”.
“Environmentalists do not want to ban private pools. We only inform you that today, due to climate inaction, access to drinking water is threatened and we must limit its use”, said the environmental senator Melanie Vogel on Twitter.
Climbing up the social ladder
The pool moved up the social ladder. The proportion of workers and employees with an inground pool in their garden has grown by 10% in four years.
“The private swimming pool market has been ‘democratized’ in recent years,” said the president of the FPP, Stephane Figueroa, in April. According to the survey carried out by the firm Decryptis in February and March 2022, with a sample of 18,000 households living in a single-family house, the proportion of workers, farmers and employees with an inground pool went from 14.1% in 2017 to 24. 7% in 2021.
That of businessmen and executives has remained, “established” in recent years, at 41.6% in 2021, according to the Decryptis study. Instead, retirees were 33.7% in 2021 compared to 40.1% in 2017.
Lack of water
But at a time when France is facing a record drought, the number of private swimming pools is increasing, and it raises questions.
For Arnaud Gauthier, professor-researcher in the field of water at the University of Lille, “building swimming pools is nonsense.” Some municipalities “are even actively considering modifying local urban plans to limit their construction,” he notes.
In the Gard and Bouches du Rhone departments there are restrictions on filling the swimming pools due to lack of water. Is increasingly difficult to get permits that authorize their construction.
“Private swimming pools represent only 0.12% of the total annual water consumption in France”, replies Joëlle Pulinx-Chalett. “The consumption of water from a swimming pool represents an average of 15m3 per year, or as much as to produce 1kg of beef”, defends the general delegate of the FPP, who adds: “In 25 years it has been reduced by even 45 %”.
Municipal pools are closed
Autrans, in the Isere region, has an Aqualoisirs pool, which is the joy of those who do not go on vacation. Today there is a cemetery silence and the water is green. No laughs, no games. The closure of the pool in the middle of summer allows you to save 60,000 euros to the communewhich has a deficit of one million euros.
The decision angered the population. “Closing a municipal pool is like closing a school. This time of year it’s a public service, allowing everyone to get away,” said Regis, who watched his daughter learn to swim there.
In this year of crisis, many French people were unable to go on vacation and the pool was their alternative to the beach.
The French regional press highlights that there are pools closed permanently, temporarily or only in the summer due to the energy crisis or lack of lifeguards.
“20 percent of municipal swimming pools will be closed in the next ten years”, alerts Alex Lamotte, from the French Federation of Lifeguards.
can’t pay for energy
The war in Ukraine made the energy bill for municipal pools explode. But there is another problem: the equipment is outdated in most of the 4,000 municipal swimming pools in the country. They are over 45 years old and have signs of fatigue and high consumption.
That aging makes them expensive. They take a quarter of the annual community resources.
“It is increasingly difficult to keep them afloat. But they are essential to learn to swim and to link the population, with rates that must be attractive” explained Catherine Leonidas, vice president of the National Association of Chosen in charge of Sport.
The only way is to build a new wave of more ecological and performing swimming pools, regrouped in communities.
But the other problem is lack of lifeguards, whose function is regulated in France and is the reason why many pools have closed. Now they have authorized the holders of a security and salvage card to be able to monitor them. But they can’t teach swimming.