Perth's drowning in backyard pools ... but do we want them?

A stock image of a backyard swimming pool at a home in Sydney, Tuesday, October 17, 2017. (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito) NO ARCHIVING
A stock image of a backyard swimming pool at a home in Sydney, Tuesday, October 17, 2017. (AAP Image/Brendan Esposito) NO ARCHIVING
Richard Briggs pic......1aug03......Canberra Pools owner Brad  Garbutt  cleans and checks the water quality of a pool in Red Hill as possible severe water restrictions threaten pool levels..........Story-

Richard Briggs pic......1aug03......Canberra Pools owner Brad Garbutt cleans and checks the water quality of a pool in Red Hill as possible severe water restrictions threaten pool levels..........Story-

Given our summer temperatures, it's not surprising that Perth has Australia's highest rates of swimming pool ownership - with the latest estimate being 18 per cent of Perth homes having a pool.

But is interest in the backyard pool cooling? As backyards shrink due to smaller block sizes, and water and power bills soar, it would appear that it might be.

According to Google search results and analytics, Perth is the leading city in Australia for the search term "pool removal", with over 250 searches per month.

I have removed more than 600 pools from Perth backyards in the past four years. While there is no single reason why pool owners decide to have their pool removed, there are seven common stories I hear each week.

The empty nesters

The kids have left home and the pools are no longer the summer attraction they used to be, and are sitting unused in a lot of Perth homes.

These pool owners are sick of pouring money, time and effort into maintaining and cleaning the pool, only to have it sit idle for most of the hotter months.

They are also wanting to travel and don't want to spend money on a pool cleaner, or return home from holiday to a find a nasty green pool.

Subdividing or downsizing

With the ever-increasing cost of home ownership, people are deciding to subdivide their property to either reduce their mortgage, downsize and remain in the same suburb. Often, pools need to be fully removed, backfilled and compacted to build on.

Young families

Many young families opt to have a backyard with a patch of lawn, swing set, trampoline and sandpit for their growing family, with a nice entertaining area for family and friends. And as block sizes decrease, there's often not enough room for a pool.

Some parents with young children are understandably nervous about the dangers of backyard pools, with Royal Life Saving Society's figures revealing 62 children aged under five have drowned in WA in the 15 years to June - more than half in home swimming pools. Sadly, just in the past month, two toddlers have drowned in Perth backyard pools.

Rental properties

Tenants don't like to be held responsible for the cleaning, maintenance and repair of the pool, and neither do some homeowners. This often leaves the pool in limbo, with neither party knowing who is responsible for it.

And doesn't take long before something inevitably goes wrong and it can be a costly fix. Many landlords are inclined to remove the pool and remove the potential for costly repairs and maintenance.

The neglected

Often when something goes wrong with a pool, the owners don't have the money on hand to repair it, or they just don't see the point in spending thousands when they may get occasional use out of it.

More often than not, it is left to gather leaves, grow algae, mosquitoes and frogs, and soon turns into an environmental risk.

The Department of Health has issued a warning for the serious Ross River and Barmah Forest viruses in the Perth metropolitan area in September, and neglected pools are a prime breeding ground for the mosquitos that spread these viruses.

Non-compliant

Many times, pools sit in backyards or the house is up for sale and the pool doesn't meet the current regulations and require thousands to be spent getting it up to code.

Some can be small rectifications, but others can be very serious. There are extreme cases where the council have ordered them to remove the pool or face hefty fines.

House hunters and properties on the market

Not everyone looking to buy a house is after a home with a pool. We would say it's a 50/50 market - some want them, others don't.

Often the ones that do realise it's not what they were expecting and the novelty soon wears off, but they hold off for a few more years before considering removing the pool.

Houses on the market that have a pool sometimes have trouble selling due to the pool. That can be due to the age of the pool or the fact that it's not ideal for their needs or family.

This story Perth's drowning in backyard pools ... but do we want them? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.