Water restrictions are clamping down in Texas as the state suffers through a historic drought.
“We’ve got projects that are almost at the point of completion right now, but we’re holding off on plastering because we can’t fill them,” said Kevin Sherrill, owner of Pineloch Pools in Webster, Texas.
Though each municipality enforces its own water restrictions, many have imposed limits on the gallonage a consumer can use; others have begun charging for consumption above a household’s usual rate. This means that while consumers can still maintain their pool’s water level, many will have to hold off on work that requires a complete drain-and-refill until after the restrictions are lifted.
“We’ve been telling our customers they’ll have to do their renovations after the drought’s over,” said Tom Driscoll, president of Cabana Pools Aquatech in Houston.
The heat has proven tough on crews as well. Many have been forced to cut down on man-hours due to temperatures, which can soar to more than 120 degrees inside a pool shell. “Jobs that used to take a week now stretch into two weeks,” Sherrill said. “The guys just can’t work all day — and when they can work they’re moving slow.”
Even the environment presents new challenges as a result of the harsh weather. Because the ground expands due to dryness, many existing installations have suffered damage.
“The ground movement is giving us cracks and leaks in pools,” said Flash Rose, owner of Flash Pool Service in San Antonio. Such leaks, combined with evaporative water loss, have caused many customers to raise their water usage, which may be worsening the problem even further.
Texas is no stranger to hot, dry weather — a severe drought struck many areas of the state in 2009, and the infamous “’50s drought” spanned nearly a decade. But in terms of temperature and precipitation, this summer has already surpassed all others on record.
“This is above and beyond any previous drought,” said Daryl Slusher, assistant director of environment and conservation at the Austin Water Authority. “Water inflow into our lakes is lower even than during the ’50s drought. Rainfall is lower than the driest year of that drought.”
This year’s temperatures also have been breaking records — in many areas, they’ve remained over 100 degrees for weeks on end.
During some previous droughts, city authorities prohibited any new pool construction — and though no one’s threatened such restrictions yet, pool industry advocacy groups such as the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals and the Aquatic Professionals Education Council are gearing up to head off any such potential crackdowns.
“We at APSP and APEC are getting together, to try to let the city councils know how many lives they’d be affecting if they completely shut us down,” said Scott Waldo, president of Platinum Pools, a Pool & Spa News Top Builder in Houston. Waldo maintains that a prohibition on building pools would eliminate approximately 20,000 jobs in the Houston area alone.
The good news is that the oppressive heat and dryness seems to have boosted consumers’ enthusiasm for owning a pool. “Since this drought has gone on, I’ve had more people calling in to get me to follow up on leads than ever before,” said Charles Wise, owner of Wise Pools, LLP, in Houston. “People have actually been calling in to make appointments for me to come out and give them quotes.”