California pool and spa professionals are becoming increasingly concerned about a statewide drought and how water-conservation measures may affect the industry.
The condition made national headlines in January when Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency and asked residents to reduce their usage by 20 percent.
Many are calling the drought historic. California has seen three winters with below-normal precipitation, with last year being the driest since the state’s founding in 1850. Snowpack measurements indicate the state is at about 20 percent of its average water content.
For the first time in its history, the State Water Project, which augments local water supplies, said it will provide no water this year, leaving regions on their own.
As a result of the dry conditions, once again, pools and spas have become a target. Since the beginning of the year, talk of water restrictions seemed to go from nonexistent to the front pages.
“It’s exploding,” said John Norwood, president of the California Pool & Spa Association.
Some media outlets have begun to advocate bans on filling pools, while others tell stories of well-intentioned homeowners demolishing their leaking vessels. This has led industry members to recall past droughts, when false perceptions about pools and water usage would inform public policy.
In some cities, that has already begun to occur. At least five municipalities, including Sacramento, Folsom and Roseville, are restricting water use or withholding permits on new construction and renovations. “There’s more to come,” Norwood said. “It’s easy. It’s like, ‘We’re not going to let restaurants serve water unless asked, and we’re not going to let people fill pools.’ But they have no idea how much water this saves or how much water is used. …”
In response to the situation, the CPSA is meeting with government officials to inform them about the true water use of pools and spas, as well as the potential economic impact of restricting construction. The organization also has hired Sacramento-based Miller Public Affairs Group to help conduct its information campaign with consumers and government officials.
The industry already is reporting success with individual water agencies. After industry lobbying, the San Juan Water District, serving part of the Sacramento area, has removed bans on pool filling and draining from its Stage 4 drought plan. Additionally, the nearby Placer County Water Agency postponed plans to ban pool filling and landscape watering on properties that already had water hookups. It had already imposed such restrictions on properties requiring new hookups. According to local station KCRA-TV, pool builders explained that, once filled and consistently covered, a pool uses less water than a comparable piece of lawn. They went on to outline the toll such restrictions would take on the industry. Officials decided to postpone a decision for at least a month.
“When you really look at the big picture, we are smaller users that have a big impact as far as jobs and the local economy,” said CPSA Chairman Mike Geremia.
Industry professionals are being proactive in other ways as well. Gregg Simon, president of the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association’s Capital Valley Chapter, has advised IPSSA members to keep filters very clean. Otherwise, he said, captured particles will break down and re-enter the pool, increasing the need for chemicals and raising total dissolved solids. “It’s really just about maintenance at this point — trying to stay on top of all that, getting a head start on it before we end up with a bigger problem …,” said Simon who’s also owner of Fair Oaks-based service firm Pollywog Pools.
Others are providing customers with information about how to conserve. In addition to creating print materials, Jerry Wallace instructs his staff to have a positive attitude when dealing with customers. “Our tack is, ‘Congratulations, you’ve already begun conserving water by having a swimming pool,’ said the president of Swim Chem, a Sacramento service firm. “So we want to make them feel good. A lot of this comes down to perception: Pools don’t use nearly the water that people think they do. They don’t waste water.”