Do swimming pools waste water and if so.. what to do about them?

As water in the desert grows more scarce, every turn of the faucet brings scrutiny.

Now, it's the backyard swimming pool that's getting some scrutiny, especially unused pools.

In the 1970's and 80's, one home in four in Tucson was built with a backyard pool.

It was never considered a wasteful luxury, in the desert heat, it was more of a necessity.

There are an estimated 45,000 pools in Tucson, many of them the backyard variety. 

But in recent years, the backyard pool has fallen out of favor.

Now, only one home in 20 is built with a backyard pool.

Partly due to the cost, but also because homes are being built on ever smaller lots in named subdivisions.

Most will have a community pool which is only a short walk away.

But it's not just the convenience.

Some see it as wasteful in a desert environment.

However, if it's used, it's likely not wasteful.

That is, if it's used.

I think if people use it, it's not a waste," says Gary Woodard, a Tucson water professional. "There's a lot of expense in keeping an unused pool."

One of the biggest reasons for pools is children.

Most of those children of the seventies and eighties are grown and have moved on.

That leaves the aging parents in charge and many don't like the experience of upkeep and cost.

Evaporation, electric energy, chemicals, maintenance, increased property values, liability insurance, they all add up and can run into the hundreds of dollars a month.

"I don't think most people are aware of all of them," Woodard says.

Still, getting rid of it is not cheap, $2,000 to $5,000 to remove it.

And the question arises, does it save the desert water.

At first blush, yes.

But so does a patch of grass or fruit trees.

So Tucson Water Citizen's Advisory Committee has asked for a study as to whether it would be cost beneficial to give rebates to people who take out their pools.

"That's what rebates are for," says Mark Lewis, a member of the committee. "To give people a little financial incentive."

They hope to have the data by the fall.