I’m contemplating two April events that seemingly have nothing to do with each other, but are actually inexorably linked: the annual Aquatics International salary survey and Earth Day.
What could a salary survey and an environmental awareness celebration have in common? Call it the Green Gap.
For the past four years, we’ve been conducting our salary survey, and every year the results point to the same thing: Aquatics professionals don’t get paid very well. This year, getting paid at all has become an issue as state and local governments grapple with the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. Nearly 70 percent of you say your facility has fallen victim to the budgetary chopping block.
The larger picture here is that aquatics is in the midst of a fundamental shift. On the most basic level, what it means is that many of you are having to do more, or as much, with less. That’s Green Gap No. 1.
That brings me to Green Gap No. 2 and Earth Day. Whatever else you think about environmentalism, it’s all about doing more, or as much, with less. Less energy. Less waste. Less consumption.
So it’s puzzling, and downright irksome, to me that aquatics professionals seem so unwilling to embrace green initiatives. In January we ran a story that I thought was very exciting: A bill was before Congress to offer 30 percent rebates for solar heating installations. That would mean switching from pricey gas-powered heat to free solar could be more doable than ever. The industry’s reaction? A collective yawn.
That’s pretty much the attitude toward most green initiatives that we’ve been writing about since 2006, when we did our first Green Issue. From variable frequency drives to fuel cells, the technology and ideas we presented produced less excitement than a Brown Alert at most facilities.
I know that investing in green technology is not cheap. And at a time when budgets are tight, I can’t expect everyone to jump on board. But that argument just doesn’t hold water when it comes to the most inexpensive and effective green equipment: pool covers. Here’s a product that can save as much as 40 percent in fuel, water and chemical costs. That’s relatively cheap and easy to use. And that is hated almost as much as black algae.
I get that taking pool covers on and off is work. What I don’t get is how aquatics operators can watch their budgets shrink — their own livelihoods put at risk — and still say, “Covers? Who needs ’em?”
I’ve advocated for higher pay and benefits for aquatics professionals since I became editor of this magazine. I still believe they’re woefully underpaid and underappreciated. But until every facility operator at least starts using pool covers, until they start recognizing that an important part of their job is running the most cost-efficient facility possible, that Green Gap won’t change.