It glistens in the sweltering heat of July and August. It beckons with crystal blue water on a 105-degree day. It promises bracing cool in the muggy heat.

Your very own swimming pool.

But if you want all the refreshment a swimming pool promises in the dog days of summer, you'll need to take some steps now to ensure your pool is ready. While your local pool store or pool maintenance professional will have their own recommendations, favorite products, and schedules to follow based on your specific situation, the following are some general guidelines to get you started on opening your pool for the spring and summer.

After removing the cover, you'll need to clean the pool. If the pool was covered well in the fall and winter you may not have much cleaning ahead of you, but more than likely you'll have to scrub some areas and remove some debris. This is a good time to give your pool vacuum and equipment a once-over and make sure it's still in working order after being stored all winter. Remove surface debris with a leaf rake or skimmer.

Next, check to make sure the pump and filter systems are running properly. There are three types of filter systems: sand, cartridge, and diatomaceous earth (DE). Methods for cleaning these filters vary by type, but sand and DE filters are generally cleaned by backwashing while cartridge filters are washed. Also, make sure you clean the basket and traps in the pumps frequently. Doing so will help the circulation of the pool, leading to less maintenance in other areas.

Now that you've taken care of the pool, turn your attention to the water. According to Pat Pennington of Jerry's Pool, Spa, and Patio Supply in Grants Pass, there are three steps for sanitizing the water in your pool. First, you'll want to oxidize the water with a "shock" product, also known as an oxidizer or burner, to rid it of residual perspiration, urine, cosmetics, etc. Then you can take care of ongoing bacterial control with chlorine (the application methods vary widely by manufacturer). Finally, check for algae. The slimy green stuff not only looks unattractive, but can clog your filter.

After sanitizing, ensure that the pH levels and alkalinity in your pool water are in balance. Test kits are available to measure chlorine, pH, and alkalinity levels. Pennington notes that the ongoing balancing of chemicals in pool water can be daunting, which is why she provides 13 to 17 tests for her customers who are concerned about the balance of their pool water.

While the promise of a blast of cool water is the appeal of a pool, you don't want your pool water to be frigid, so find a method for heating it. Pennington notes that the Rogue Valley is a great place to use solar heating because of our warm days. She suggests either a solar blanket on top of the pool or an aboveground solar panel.

Finally, you'll want to make sure to check for leaks. Even a small leak can have big repercussions such as higher water and electricity bills and potential damage to your pool deck.

Shari Botermans, office manager of American Leak Detection in Talent, advises pool owners to keep on eye on the amount of water they have to add, noting that unusual water usage is the surest sign of a leak. Other symptoms of a leak include a pump that has a harder time running, cracks in the deck, and increased difficulty balancing the chemicals in the water. If you do suspect a leak, Botermans recommends performing a "bucket test" at home (see sidebar).

So, even though you may be enjoying the temperate spring, think ahead to the sweltering heat of July and August and get your pool ready to welcome you with a blast of cool, clean water.