Davis to repair pool complex leaking thousands of gallons daily

Davis next week will repair a leaking, aging Civic Center Pool Complex that has lost thousands of gallons of water a day for at least a few months – and likely much longer.

The complex, home to Davis’ busiest pool, is losing more than 6,000 gallons every day, according to the city. About a quarter of that stems from evaporation, splashing and swimmers leaving the diving and lap pools. But it’s the other 4,500 or so daily gallons lost that has the city’s attention.

“The amount of water lost during a drought year – it’s not acceptable,” said Melissa Chaney, Davis parks and community services director.

It’s unclear how long the pools at the aging complex have been leaking, Chaney said, adding that the city began investigating the issue in late July. But the tally is in the tens of thousands of gallons since city-hired experts in August first spotted a large leak under the pool deck between the complex’s 140,000-gallon lap pool and 94,000-gallon diving pool. Other leaks were found around rotted light conduits and other skimmer apparatus.

Officials anticipate the repair bill will be no more than $50,000 and say the city has sufficient funds to pay for the patch job, set to begin Wednesday.

City officials say the complex’s water bill for the year ending in September was about $4,900. About $1,500 of that was for wasted water. More vexing is the amount of water lost in the middle of a historic drought, during which residents are living under a mandatory 30percent reduction in water use.

Because the repairs will not involve structural changes, the city complex will not lose its grandfathered building code status. The complex underwent a major remodel in 1982, but is out of present code and has long been exempt from update requirements because of its age, city officials said in a staff report.

“We will target specific areas where we know there are some leaks,” Chaney said.

Other issues come with the pools’ advanced age. Built in the early 1940s, the pools are the city’s oldest and serve hundreds of swimmers as the primary home of Davis Aquatic Masters, one of the largest master swim programs in the country. They also serve year-round swim team Davis Aquadarts.

“Not only is there a leakage issue, there’s built-in runoff that comes with a 72-year-old pool,” said Stu Kahn, head coach of Davis Aquatic Masters.

He explained that the drains that capture water washing onto the pool deck is not recirculated, as water conservation was of little concern 70 years ago, he said. The water “goes back into the aquifer, but you can’t keep it in the water system.”

Meanwhile, the two swim groups and others that use the Civic Center complex are working out a schedule to use the city’s three other pools.

“We’re able to do this waltz temporarily, but we’re more than happy to do it if it keeps us in the water,” Kahn said poolside Thursday as he waited for another group of swimmers to arrive. About 300 people use the pool each day, including the 80 youths on their way Thursday afternoon, Kahn said.

“Hopefully, it’s a reasonable enough fix that it won’t impact us too much. Swimming is big in Davis,” said Cindi Parente, a Davis Aquatic Masters’ member, following her swim. “It’s a lot of juggling.”

Kahn said he was pleased that the city is repairing the pool, but noted that officials will soon have to decide what to do with a swim complex that has shown its age for years.

“I don’t think there’s an older pool hosting a year-round program than this in California,” Kahn said. “It’s the granddaddy.”

Chaney stressed that the repairs won’t be a long-term fix and could not guarantee that the work would completely seal the leaks.

But she said, “If we can get these leaks, it could buy the city three to five years.”

Any major renovation would require the city to bring the complex up to code, requiring what staffers said would be “significant resources” to accomplish.

The next step, Chaney said, will be for city leaders to decide what to do with the complex – build a new pool facility, or renovate the present complex and lose its grandfathered status.

Either way, Kahn said the city “knows we’re due” for a new swim complex. “We have the support for it, but, like anything else, we just need the money.”

Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916)321-1040.