Swim England

A nation swimming

How swimming pool owners and operators are tackling climate change

Tackling climate change and reducing the environmental impact of the leisure sector is a key target for swimming pool owners and operators in England.

Following the COP27 Climate Change Summit in Egypt, Oxford City Council detail the measures it is taking to cut down on carbon emissions.

Oxford City Council has a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030.

Utilising £10.9 million of funding from the Government’s Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, made available by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and delivered by Salix Finance, the council has decarbonised the heating of three leisure centres – Ferry, Barton and Leys – and an outdoor pool – Hinksey.

Some of the steps taken include the installation of air source and water source heat pumps to supply heat for the swimming pools, battery storage capabilities to maximise the use of off-peak electricity and a circa £2 million local solar farm investment.

In total, the heat pumps installed are expected to achieve a 56 per cent CO2 reduction across the four buildings.

This would save almost one million kg of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

That’s the equivalent of taking 208 cars off the road for a year, or driving 2.5 million miles in a car.

Huge environmental improvements

The measures are also forecast to reduce operational running costs by around £200,000 per year.

Paul Spencer, energy and climate change manager at Oxford City Council, said: “The council declared a climate emergency in 2019 and set an ambitious target of net zero by 2030.

“With leisure centres accounting for more than 40 per cent of the council’s Scope 1 and 2 building emissions, significantly reducing carbon emissions in these buildings is central to meeting our net zero goals.”

Jane Nickerson, Swim England chief executive, praised Oxford for their work to cut down on carbon emissions.

She added: “The work being done in Oxford, and by pool owners and operators in many other parts of the country as well, to reduce the carbon footprint of their swimming and leisure facilities is fantastic and to be commended.

“We all want to see carbon emissions coming down and a more environmentally sustainable network of swimming pools all over the country and the Public Sector Decarbonisation Scheme, whilst not perfect, is a good example of where positive government investment can make a real difference.

“With the huge advances in technology we have seen in recent decades, and the greater understanding and appreciation of the importance of environmental sustainability, we know that replacing and where appropriate, refurbishing, our current ageing pool stock can deliver huge environmental improvements, making our pools much greener.

“We will continue to support efforts to reduce the carbon footprint of aquatic activities.”

Rebecca McNamara, Salix Finance programme co-ordinator, said: “We were delighted to work with Oxford City Council on this exciting decarbonisation project supporting their wider net zero goals.

“It has been fantastic to see the idea of the water source heat pump for Hinksey Outdoor Pool become reality through the PSDS funding, along with the heat pumps at three leisure centres all playing a significant role in reducing the council’s carbon footprint.”