Waves Of The Future

From Roman baths to modern water parks, from plunge pools of the early 20th century to the spray grounds of the early 21st, water has played a major role in civilization for well over 2,000 years. Here is a look at some future trends in the aquatic industry based on overall trends in American society:

• Water-based exercise is recognized as one of the most beneficial ways for those with physical disabilities. It is used to treat arthritis, chronic pain, poor circulation and weight problems, as well as for therapy and rehabilitation to expedite recovery from accidents, injuries and other physical traumas. Expect to see an increased demand for therapy and rehabilitation facilities as a higher percentage of the population lives longer.

• While the vast majority of competitive swimmers in America are Caucasian, minority populations are growing, and the demand for competitive water in a local setting may have to yield to recreation water, setting the stage for more regional competitive aquatic centers and multi-purpose local swim centers.

• Smaller groups, such as the growing Muslim and transgender populations, also will affect the future of American aquatics as religious beliefs and privacy concerns must be accounted for in designing new facilities or renovating existing ones.

Safety

America is easily the most litigious country in the world. The National Center for State Courts reports that there were over 15 million civil-court cases in 2000. In order to prevent lawsuits resulting from injuries, municipalities and private companies will need to over-design systems with redundancies and extra safety measures–all the while trying to provide an enjoyable and exciting aquatic experience that will keep patrons and their wallets coming back again and again.

Here are a few safety issues and trends to consider:

• Laws relating to safety, such as the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (dealing with entrapment hazards), and health departments mandating ultraviolet systems (to prevent Cryptosporidium and other waterborne illnesses), are becoming the norm across the country. As more threats are analyzed and exposed, and better technology is developed, safety measures at pools will only become more stringent and numerous.

• Coinciding with the aforementioned need for more therapeutic water space will be the need for more disabled-friendly areas and devices in all public areas. These will include additional handicapped parking, non-slip floors and handrails in locker rooms and other support areas.

• Environmental concerns, such as sun exposure, air quality and contamination from fowl and insects, also are seen as areas that need increased attention in coming years. Thus, shade structures, air filters and treatment systems and sound-based mechanisms to deal with unwanted pests are seen as possibilities in the future. Indoor facilities that can be used year-round are already becoming more popular, and seen as a wise, long-term use of funds, even given the drastically higher initial capital costs associated with these projects.

Societal Trends

America is an interconnected society, where people expect to stay in contact, even when exercising. The line between private time and company time has blurred considerably with e-mail, files and conversations always at our fingertips. According to a United Nations report, “Americans work 137 hours, or about three and one-half weeks more a year than Japanese workers, 260 hours (about six and one-half weeks) more a year than British workers and 499 hours (about 12 and one-half weeks) more a year than German workers… American workers are eager to make the best impression, to put in the most hours’” (Greenhouse). With these factors in mind, let’s look at the ways society is changing, and how these changes will impact the future of American aquatics:

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