Siphoning the pool … or not

Statement 1: Every time it rains, our pool fills up.

Yeah, this is great in summer when the heat evaporates bucket loads of water from the pool, and you really appreciate Mother Nature giving ya a hand so you don’t have to use the municipality’s expensive water.

But in winter, when it rains and rains and rains, as has happened the last few days, the pool just stays full to the brim, despite the emergency overflow pipe. The creepy-crawly doesn’t like this, because it gets entangled with the leaf-catcher and then the two of them have a tug of war that ends either with the almost-death of the leaf-catcher, or an uneasy truce because the timer on the creepy switches off in the heat of battle. Lucky escape, that!

Statement 2: I appear to have a small thumb.

Now what do Statements 1 and 2 have to do with each other?

Let’s backtrack to January last year.

Over the last few years, the Greens have been urging us frantically to “Save water! Save every drop!” Add to that a serious drought and dropping dam levels around the country, a water supply and sewage infrastructure that is falling apart because it is overtaxed and in dire need of upgrading, as well as increased water tariffs, and we decided to do the responsible thing:

We “invested” (*) in a poolside tank system supplied by Water Rhapsody, which promised to catch our backwash water and to filter this with the assistance of a funny neon-blue flocculant, so that we could then reuse the water in the pool once all the precipitate and gunk had been filtered out.

The team duly arrived, and immediately sliced through the thick black plastic pipe that used to be our backwash pipe leading to the sewage system. They connected it to another pipe, which now fed the water into a large green drum. At the base of said drum was a little tap, which was connected to a short length of hosepipe, which ran the water back into the pool once it was filtered.

This is what it looks like:

Poolside tank to save backwash

Poolside tank to save backwash

There was just one problem with this brilliant setup (apart from the fact that the team did a rather rushed and shoddy job on connecting the pipes):

We are now no longer able to empty our pool.

Not that we WANT to, mind you. Not right now anyway. But we MIGHT one day want to empty our pool. Like if we decide to convert the entire backgarden into a giant labyrinth, or a fruit orchard, or a vegetable plot, or a chicken farm. Or something. You know.

I’m not entirely sure why we didn’t realise this earlier.

Or why the man who created the Water Rhapsody system didn’t point this out to us at the time. Perhaps he thought it was rather obvious: if you cut through the pipe that runs to the sewage system and then tear out the pipe and cut it into pieces, you will no longer be able to use it. Duh. Or perhaps it was just because he wouldn’t sell many systems if he pointed out its inherent flaws.

I suppose if one puts it like that…



Ergo, when it rains, our pool fills to the brim. As it did this morning. So when I suddenly realised that there was a teensy lull in the incessant rain (you know, for a while there I thought I was back in Ireland!), I forayed into the back garden to have a quick look at the pool.

Creepy-crawly, hosepipe and leaf-catcher all cosying up together

Creepy-crawly, hosepipe and leaf-catcher all cosying up together

Yip, it was full. And yes, true to form, the creepy and the leaf-catcher had gotten all tangled up again. So I obligingly disentangled them, and then decided I’d try to use Richard’s clever 10-step method of siphoning water out of the pool.

What you do is this:

  1. You take a hosepipe. (It helps if it’s not 25 metres long as ours is. That may be great for watering the furthest reaches of the garden, but not for what we want to use it for.)
  2. You unscrew the bit that clips the one end onto the tap.
  3. You also unscrew the bit at the front end, which you use to spray.
  4. You feed the entire hosepipe, slowly, one length at a time, into the pool, making sure that the whole pipe is under water. Don’t let go of the last bit!
  5. You push the end of the hosepipe under the water, holding onto it (brrrrr! freezing cold!!!), and wait for the air to finish bubbling out.
  6. While it is under the water, you hold your thumb over the end of the pipe, run to the drain, reach down with the pipe as far as you can, and then release your thumb’s grip.
  7. If you did it properly, you will see and hear a small trickle of water running out of the hosepipe.
  8. Then you go back to the pool, and slowly pull the hosepipe out of the water, carefully curling it up bit by bit so it looks neat and tidy. πŸ˜‰
  9. When you have about a metre still under the water, you decide at which level you want the water in the pool to be, and then you bend the pipe so that the end is flush with the desired level. DON’T let any air get sucked into it at this stage, or you’ll have to start all over again.
  10. To make sure that the pipe stays in place, you weigh it down with a brick or a stone. And then you wait… it’ll probably take a couple of hours.

Apparently, this is the siphon effect (see Wikipedia). Or something.


NB! The TRICK is to keep covering the end of the pipe when you poke it down into the drain. Don’t let any air get sucked in! If you do, it won’t work.

After 7 attempts (yes! SEVEN!) – seven increasingly frustrated and desperate attempts, during which my fingers turned prune-ish and blue-white because the water was so friggin’ cold, I concluded that my thumb was just too small!

No matter how tightly I clasped the end of the pipe, and no matter how carefully I ran, I could HEAR the whistle of the air being sucked into the pipe. And then of course it didn’t work.

So, I guess this is one of those things that will just have to stay ‘the man’s job’ in our household. πŸ˜€

(Honestly, I can’t say I mind tooooo much.)

Fortunately, making tea does not require such exertion-filled acrobatics. And so that’s what I’m going to do now. Perhaps I can even find a left-over muffin.



* I put “invested” in inverted commas, because I don’t think it was a very good investment in retrospect.

2 thoughts on “Siphoning the pool … or not

    • In retrospect, I think this was a total waste of money. The theory behind the poolside system is that you can re-use the backwash water in the pool – or on the surrounding plants – once it has been ‘filtered’ with the flocculant.

      (1) Because the pipe through which the backwash used to run into the sewage system is now disconnected, and the backwash water runs into a green drum (and via a short piece of pipe into the pool), it means that we cannot empty our pool when we need to, such as in winter, when it is very full. Or if we should need to resurface the pool walls.
      (2) Because the installation team did a shite job (I’m seriously pissed off at them) installing/connecting the pipes, we now (about two years later) sit with leaking connections, a straining pool pump and filter system, and lots of air bubbles in the system, which is very unhealthy for the pump.

      Repairing this mess will cost a pretty penny, and we may in fact re-do all the pipes and disconnect the Water Rhapsody system entirely.

      If I could go back in time, I would never have installed this system, and I will certainly not recommend it to anyone else.

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