Sydney is the latest Australian city to raise the prospects of a riverside or harbourside “floating” pool.
Floating pools are a reality overseas – there are several in European capitals and New York has a second one approved in the East River near Brooklyn. Melbourne group Yarra Pools has been pushing for a riverside pool since 2016 and Perth has had a plan in the offing since 2018.
Now Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore is pushing for a floating pool – or possibly floating pools – on the banks of Sydney Harbour.
Greater Sydney Harbour stretches from Parramatta to the heads and its catchments are home to more than three million people. However, its waters have also been home to industry and pollution from before 1970 when industry practices were poorly regulated. Moore says that making the harbour swimmable will require a whole of government approach, including water recycling, gross pollutant traps (GPT), raingardens, wetlands, swales and stormwater management to reduce stormwater pollution entering the harbour.
In 2019, the city council commissioned Andrew Burges Architects to look at options for bringing to life a swimmable harbour – and highlighting what is possible in iconic parts of the harbour. Andrew Burges Architects are the firm behind some of Sydney’s latest aquatic centres, including Gunyama at Green Square and the new Parramatta Aquatic Centre.
Floating pools typically utilise filtered and treated harbour or river water, so water quality in the harbour would be a critical element in the plan.
Therefore, the vision rests on improving the overall harbour water quality. Some parts of the harbour are highly polluted and cleaning up these waterways so they can be used for recreation and to improve biodiversity will require cooperation across all levels of government.
An additional consideration is that, over the next 30 years, the population of Sydney will dramatically increase, with the climate also expected to change.
“Our city will be hotter, there will be more people, and there will be more competition for space for recreation. Turning the harbour into a safe place where people can swim, exercise or relax is the logical next step,” says Moore.
CAPTION: One of Andrew Burges’s designs for a floating pool in the harbour, this one at Rozelle Bay. Credit: Andrew Burges Architects