CPSA Executive Director John Norwood
CPSA Executive Director John Norwood

California drought guidelines that are used by cities, counties and water districts around the state have taken a lighter stance on pools and spas.

The state’s Department of Water Resources issues the document to help municipalities and water providers update their emergency water contingency plans every five years, as required by law. Before, the Urban Water Management Plan Guidebook included measures such as banning the filling and refilling of pools and spas, the refilling of more than 1 foot of water, not issuing building permits for new pools and spas, and even prohibiting the water use to make up for evaporation.

“They created a basic template that cities and water districts could utilize,” said Mike Geremia, chairman of the board for the California Pool & Spa Association. “That’s why we had to do all the battles last year, because all the cities and counties adopted those recommended guidelines.”

An update is due July 1. CPSA proposed changes meant to yield water savings, yet not threaten the industry. After hearing the industry’s economic impact and learning how much water pools and spas truly use, the agency decided to replace current restrictions with language emphasizing the use of covers. The group also understood such mandates should only take place after watering lawns is banned, Geremia said.

“That’s a huge win because the guidelines will be sent to cities and counties,” he said. “There are so many cities, counties and water districts out there, by being able to do this, we kill 100 birds with one stone.”

His prediction for the impact: “I think there will be fewer surprises.”

The details continue to be ironed out.

This development, combined with local industry victories and the much-needed rain and snow this winter has produced, leaves some feeling the pressure lift. However, 70 percent of the state is still suffering severe drought, the Department of Water Resources said, with reservoirs in Northern California still only 35 percent filled. Gov. Jerry Brown is keeping water conservation requirements in place, possibly through October, and cities will be fined if they don’t meet their savings goals.

The CPSA continues to receive six to 10 water-restriction notices a day from various jurisdictions, said its president and chief lobbyist, John Norwood.

Even if the drought were to subside this year, the government conservation mind-set likely will not change, he warned. This may have long-lasting effects on how products are conceived and constructed, particularly on commercial projects, where CPSA expects there to be fewer waterfeatures and, perhaps, even pools.

“Having gone through what we’ve gone through, I think you have to take the position that we’ve got to change the nomenclature from drought to water conservation,” Norwood said. “Water conservation is here to stay because we have more takers than we have water. So ... people who are water users are going to be under much more scrutiny.”

CPSA continues to seek new members to help with the advocacy. Last year, more than 160 new members joined CPSA. Its goal is to double that growth this year.