Making Waves: The Resurgence of Public Water Recreation in New York State

After decades of investment to improve water quality, cities worldwide are beginning to open up their once-polluted waterways for public access. New York State (NYS) has dramatically improved its waterways, too. As has been reported by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), New York’s rivers and harbours are the cleanest they’ve been in years.


The average faecal coliform and enterococcus levels have dramatically decreased over the last three decades due mainly to the cessation of raw sewage dumping, the elimination of illegal discharges into the water body and the reduction of combined sewer overflows. Now it’s time to identify ways to safely access our waters for public recreation and set the goal of safe swimming in saline waters.

About + POOL

+ POOL is a water-filtering, floating pool being designed for installation in New York’s inner harbour, around NYS and beyond. The pool will filter the water that floats in through its walls, cleaning more than 1,000,000 gallons a day without chemicals or additives.

The + POOL filtration system is a unique configuration of proven filtration system technology consisting of three layers and a final disinfection that meets bathing beach standards for swimmable water. In 2017, Friends of + POOL filed a provisional patent application on its filtration system, followed by an international patent in 2018.

In addition to contributing to the health of the state’s waters, + POOL is adaptable and able to be reconfigured for lap swimming, lounging, watersports, swim education classes and children’s activities. Each configuration can be used independently, combined to form an Olympic-length pool or opened completely into a 9000ft2 pool for play.

Water quality and access

50 years ago, the U.S. passed the Clean Water Act with the goal of ensuring “fishable, swimmable” water across the country by 1983.

Water quality improvements in the last several decades have brought New Yorkers back onto and in waters like the Hudson River, Bronx River and Flushing Bay for recreation, and there is a need for further progress to meet the recreational needs of New Yorkers.

Benefits of being on/in water:

Mental and physical health

Social interaction and community

Connection to the natural environment

Relief from extreme heat

Greater appreciation of water

+ POOL, a non-profit water stewardship organisation, has engineered a system to provide safe, regular access to urban waters for swimming that has the potential to scale worldwide.

History and societal benefits of municipal swimming pools

Municipal swimming pools have a history of bringing great societal benefits to the public. In the 1920s, they fostered a vibrant community life by bringing together large numbers of diverse people for sustained interaction and socialising, teaching a generation of Americans how to swim and providing premium recreational facilities for citizens of all backgrounds. Today, municipal pools are scarce, and yet they have the potential to provide even more benefits to us in contemporary times. Municipal pools provide relief from increased instances of extreme heat. They serve thousands daily instead of private pools that may only serve a single family and their friends, making them more sustainable. And, with concepts like + POOL, they will reconnect New Yorkers to the waters that surround the state. Conventional in-ground pools are beneficial for humans but come at a high environmental cost.

Water safety education

Many Americans don’t know how to swim because they don’t have anywhere safe to learn how to do so. Public pools are that safe place.

In NYC, there is only one public pool for every 126,80828 residents. Given access is limited, few New Yorkers learn to swim despite living in close proximity to water, which is incredibly dangerous when considering that 10 people drown each day in the U.S.

Why + POOL?

Identifying safe places to access our waters is critical to tapping into the social benefits of swimming in natural waters. That’s why NYS is collaborating with + POOL to leverage its technology, advanced engineering and process controls to open up access across the state. + POOL demonstrates how the state plans to provide safe public access to its waters. Bringing river swimming to New Yorkers through + POOL will help NYS take meaningful steps towards the goals of the Clean Water Act.

Most recently, the Governor of New York, Kathy Hochul, has affirmed the state’s intent to expand swimming access and has committed $16m to pilot and scale + POOL with the goal of creating the first urban river-sourced swim facility in the US. This summer, the governor and the non-profit Friends of + POOL plan to launch an approximately 2000ft2 version of the water-filtering swimming pool utilising + POOL’s design and technology. The installation in New York City this summer will demonstrate how the + POOL, and its unique filtration system, will provide safe public access to waters and meet new regulations outlined by the Government.

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