Pool and Pond Safety [March 2022 Community Associations Journal]
Pool and Pond Safety Standards
We all benefit from time spent around the water. Whether it’s in the form of lakes, ponds, or even swimming pools, science proves that water instils a sense of peace and tranquility within each of us. HOAs often contain all three of these water resources, but proper management and safety precautions are required to reap the benefits. Without pool and pond safety measures, these aquatic ecosystems may become a danger and detriment to your community.
How can we tell? The best approach for validating safe water is periodic water quality analysis. Professional water quality consultants can identify problematic conditions, such as poor dissolved oxygen levels or imbalanced pH, and help determine the best management strategy to make pools and ponds safe for recreational use. There are also some visual ways to determine if a pond is safe for swimming.
Using basic observatory skills and judgment, some “red flags” of unsafe waters can indicate the need for water quality testing. Water color is a good primary indicator of water quality; if it is noticeably different or unusual (i.e. green, soupy-looking), there is likely an issue.
Water color is a primary indicator.
Although green water may indicate an algae bloom, not all algae are green and some can produce harmful toxins. Another red flag is the scent. Foul odors can be produced by harmful factors within the water body and can indicate that something is wrong. A visible fish kill or other wildlife impacts also signal that the waterbody is unfit for use and may need water quality tests to determine pool and pond safety.
Toxic Algae — Toxic algae is not just unsightly, it can be harmful to humans, pets, and other wildlife. Exposure to harmful algal blooms may lead to sickness and permanent physical and neurological ailments. Managing algae is critical to pool and pond safety.
Algae colors vary—not all are green, yet they can produce harmful toxins. Foul odors can also signal harmful factors within the water body and indicate that something is wrong.
The best approach for validating safe water quality is periodic water analysis. Ongoing water quality testing can reveal a wealth of information, including problematic ecological changes. Early identification allows professionals to intervene before imbalances get out of hand.
Is recreation safe in deep water?
Deep water can be beneficial in lakes and ponds. In fact, deeper water is usually desirable. Greater depths are associated with fewer flooding events, more abundant fish and wildlife, and, in some cases, fewer algae and odor problems.
Deeper water comes with fewer flooding events, more abundant fish and wildlife, and, in some cases, fewer algae and odor problems.
Lakes and ponds with more depth are also deemed “younger,” meaning they shouldn’t require dredging for many years. This is a process of muck and sediment removal that restores an aging pond but is extremely invasive and costly for a community association.
Nonetheless, deep water can be dangerous for residents, particularly children. Less visibility in the water column makes it more difficult to recognize underwater hazards like stormwater equipment, tree branches, debris, and even steep drop-offs. Aquatic weeds may also be submerged below the surface. Hydrilla, milfoil, and other nuisance plants have been known to drown swimmers, including experienced athletes. Best practices like cleaning plant material from kayaks, nets, toys, and water equipment will help prevent the spread of invasive species.
Lower visibility in deep water makes it more difficult to recognize underwater hazards.
How can residents enjoy waterbodies safely?
Installing docks and gazebos around the water is an excellent way to encourage residents to safely enjoy fishing, feeding ducks, and nature watching. It’s also beneficial to establish clear, durable paths to the water to prevent residents from venturing into unsafe areas.
This can be accomplished naturally by planting beneficial plants like blueflag iris, cardinal flower, and native sedges and rushes. Allowing them to grow at least 18 in. high and 3-5 ft. from the shoreline will create a visually-appealing buffer while preventing sediment, trash, and pollutants from flowing into the water during rainstorms. And if shoreline sediment has eroded significantly, professional bioengineering solutions may be required to restore stability and aesthetics. The waterbody shoreline is a significant element in pool and pond safety.
Shoreline Restoration — No matter how well a waterbody is managed, ecological balance cannot be achieved without a healthy shoreline. Addressing erosion problems first will help set your waterbody up for continued success.
Pool and Pond Safety Education
This should go hand-in-hand with education about water safety. Knowledgeable residents are able to make more informed decisions and be more vigilant when spending time around lakes, ponds, and pools with their families. It’s essential for communities to post proper signage around water resources.
Likewise, it’s important to wear life jackets, use sunscreen, avoid diving and running near the water, refrain from swimming past dusk, and make sure a lifeguard or chaperone is always present. More pool and pond safety tips can be found at www.safekids.org.
It’s essential for communities to post proper signage around all water resources.
Community Pond — Community lakes and ponds can be a valuable asset for HOAs, apartment complexes, and other residential communities, but improper management can make them a liability.
Consistency is Key for Pool and Pond Safety
While good judgment and observation can offer a lot of information, responsible maintenance will make the biggest difference. Water management is most impactful and cost-effective when conducted on a consistent basis.
Experts can apply sustainable strategies such as nutrient mitigation, beneficial bacteria applications, aeration and oxygenation solutions.
This allows experts to monitor aquatic conditions and quickly address them with sustainable strategies like nutrient mitigation, beneficial bacteria applications, aeration and oxygenation solutions, and—as a last resort—EPA-registered herbicides or algaecides, which can be applied by professional drones for increased safety and efficiency.
Trent is an Aquatic Specialist at SOLitude Lake Management. He focuses on helping property managers and communities maintain healthy, balanced aquatic ecosystems and enjoys educating them on the importance of sustainable freshwater management. Trent has spent more than a dozen years working closely with homeowner’s associations, golf courses, and municipalities.