Steve Kenny believes it's time for aquatic professionals to add a new specialty -- one devoted entirely to elevating water quality in both commercial and residential settings. The first step, he says, is imagining a world in which excellence in water quality is simply the norm.
By Steve Kenny
I’ve always believed that to make something real, you first have to visualize it. Only then can you begin taking the tangible steps needed to create something new and affect positive change. Right now, in terms of water quality management, we’ve barely begun visualizing the very tip of the iceberg.
I believe we are, or at least should be, entering a new Golden Age of water treatment; a wave of change driven largely by technological integration as well as increased understanding and appreciation of water quality issues. As a societal resource, water is becoming more precious all the time and our awareness of all things H20 is inevitably increasing. When you combine elevated awareness with advancing technology, the possibilities are truly only limited by our imaginations.
The practical fact is, we have the tools available to conquer water quality problems, and more useful products are coming on line all the time. The stumbling block, I believe, is that we lack the will and understanding necessary to go to the next level.
I’ve devoted my career to providing people with water that is not only safe but also aesthetically pleasing. I deliver “artisan” water to my customers. Yes, it requires technical know-how, but beyond science and technology, it’s crucial to believe in the power of pristine water and know that it’s possible in practical terms.
I’m often both amazed and discouraged how an industry that enables aquatic experiences oftentimes relegates water quality to an afterthought. I see it in both the commercial and residential markets where issues with water quality cost money, frustrate consumers and sometimes make people sick.
Every year, usually in the spring at the start of swim season, we’re inundated with press coverage about unhealthy air full of chloramines (a by-product of urine in pool water) or the threat of Cryptosporidium and other waterborne illnesses. It’s disgusting and the messaging obviously makes some people think twice about going to a public aquatics facility or perhaps even owning their own pool.
In the face of that negativity, the act of imagining perfect water quality based on ideal conditions may seem a romantic or even silly exercise to some skeptics. Truth be told, we already live in a world overflowing with examples of visions becoming truth.
I think of Steve Jobs and how he told us to imagine a world where you have a music library in your pocket, or you can connect to the internet through your phone, or even a world where everyone has a computer. He imagined those things and many more, which in turn drove the diligence that was required to develop today’s digital technology and stoked the demand that made those products so historically successful.
When you step back and think about it, imagining a world with dramatically improved water quality really shouldn’t be so far fetched.
Here’s where we start:
q Imagine a world where pool water is just as reliable as drinking water, where you can be sure that when you or your kids go swimming in a public facility, you know there are standards being met for overall water quality. It’s a world where water balance, sanitation, and the destruction of disinfection byproducts are a given, where the water never gets so bad that facilities have to be shut down while it’s reset.
q Imagine a world where pool water doesn’t smell, where being inside an indoor aquatic facility doesn’t mean enduring the familiar and sometimes overwhelming chloramine odor. Imagine a world where kids don’t need inhalers just to get through a workout, or suffer breathing problems later on.
q Imagine a world where facility owners and managers invest in their brand by ensuring water that protects their customers’ health and keeps them wanting to come back for more. And, where the facility needn’t fear a visit from the local health inspector.
q Imagine a world where those same managers and owners understand that it’s in their own best interest and the interest of their customers and constituents to invest in quality water treatment.
q Imagine a world where no one ever gets sick from using a swimming pool. Where the terms “water-related illness” and “Cryptosporidium” are obsolete. Think about what would happen to the restaurant industry if every time you went out to eat, you had to worry there was a possibility that dining out might make you sick. That’s unthinkable in the restaurant industry, yet, in the world of aquatics, risk of illness is an accepted part of the equation. That must change.
q Imagine a world where people of all ages can more fully benefit from living an aquatic lifestyle. Think about the benefits to health and fitness, both physical and mental, and how swimming and exercising in water can positively impact the lives of our children, and almost everyone. When you don’t have to worry about the wholesomeness of the water itself, you’re inevitably far freer to make swimming a part of your routine.
Meet the Water Quality Manager
For several years, and directly as a result of many more years working in pool service and construction, I’ve promoted the idea of establishing a new type of aquatic professional – the Water Quality Manager (WQM).
Because water quality is the key factor for any type of aquatic property, commercial or residential, I believe it makes sense that our industry develops a class of professional who goes beyond the traditional role of a service technician or a pool operator. The WQM would be equal parts consultant, troubleshooter and chemist; someone who understands sanitation, filtration, mineral balance, hydraulics and how all those things fit together. Such a professional amalgam would help facility owners and managers maintain their brand, ensure bather safety and comfort, and ultimately keep the doors open and their customers happy.
By ensuring topnotch water quality, the WQM works to forge the level of quality experience people should expect when immersing their bodies in professionally maintained water. The WQM would become an extension of the user’s hand, leave nothing to chance by establishing systems that can withstand the rigors of high use. In doing so, he or she would become the guarantor of an experience that keeps people coming back to enjoy sparkling water that is as safe as it is beautiful.
q Imagine a world where the health and safety of everyone using pools and spas is safeguarded by a class of professionals, specifically water quality professionals, who have studied the arts and sciences of water chemistry, filtration, hydraulics, and system control.
q Imagine a world where the increased demand for aquatic facilities results in new pools being built rather than old ones being abandoned.
q Imagine a world where all of these concepts are well established, where excellence in water quality management is the norm and not exceptional.
Of course, as it stands now, we’re a long way from that world. The pool, spa, and aquatics industries do have professionals who think this way, but it’s far from everyone in the business with many still clinging the status quo of the past. Likewise, people who own and operate aquatic facilities are often not versed enough in water quality management to appreciate that the resources they devote to maintaining artisan water will pay back multi-fold.
Perhaps the first step in changing the world of aquatics is simply imagining how fortifying it would be if we thought differently about the future. Dreams can become reality if we’re serious about making a positive change. It’s encouraging, too, that it all can start today with just a small dose of imagination.
Steve Kenny is an aquatic designer, builder, and service technician with more than 25 years of experience. Based in Long Island, New York, he specializes in designing, building, and maintaining commercial and residential pools and spas that feature the highest possible water quality. He is a passionate advocate of creating a new class of aquatic professionals devoted to the science, methods, and art of ensuring pristine water conditions. Steve was formally trained in the culinary arts and has a passion for fine dining. He is an accomplished photographer and sailing enthusiast. He is also a passionate advocate of the benefits of hydrotherapy and #bluemind