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Industry leaders are waiting to see how the latest water restriction declaration will unfold.

In August, officials in Orange County, California’s second largest water district, prohibited initial filling of new residential pools and spas, as well as the addition of more than 1 foot of water to existing residential vessels. This came as part of its protocol for Stage 2 drought. It does not apply to commercial installations.

Industry officials sent a letter to the Santa Margarita Water District and held two subsequent meetings to discuss proposals by the California Pool & Spa Association and local builders for other ways to conserve water. SMWD staff is considering those proposals.

“I think it was a very good, collaborative meeting,” said Cecil Fraser, owner of Swan Pools in Lake Forest, Calif., who has helped spearhead efforts to work with SMWD. “We have the same objectives — to maximize the conservation of water.”

Fraser and CPSA representatives proposed that the SMWD promote the use of pool covers and other means of water conservation. They also suggested that fill restrictions be reserved for the higher-tier drought alerts.

“Until somebody gets into their final stages, whether it’s Stage 4 or 5, we should not be in anyone’s conversations,” said Mike Geremia, CPSA Board chairman. “It should not happen until the district gets to a point where they’re basically banning all outdoor watering.”

To do otherwise amounts to targeting specific industries, said CPSA President John Norwood in a letter to the SMWD. “Once the District begins to go down the road of business-specific water use restrictions, it puts itself in the position of deciding which businesses or industries might be forced to close their doors,” he stated. “… The swimming pool and spa business has a significant financial impact on the economy in Orange County, not including the multiplier effect relative to the cost of weekly pool service, backyard furniture, equipment and repairs.”

The industry also said pools and spas don’t use as much water as many believe.

Fraser reported that the water district staff seemed open to the suggestions. In the meantime, he said, pools contracted before Aug. 6, when the restrictions began, will be allowed to move forward, provided the builder shows the contract to the water department. Those sold after that day will need to contact the water district to see if there are any options, but construction likely will need to wait until the board meets on the issue in mid-September.

This is the latest of several water restrictions the industry has faced in 2014. The Golden State is in its third year of drought, with at least 58 percent of the state experiencing the highest level designated by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Enactment of emergency water regulations by the State Water Resources Control Board has been followed by some recent restrictions. Geremia said there have been water districts misinterpreting the new state regulations, which don’t mention pools and spas, but only prohibit the use of potable water in fountains and ornamental waterfeatures, unless a recirculation system is in place. Some, such as Carmichael Water District, imposed bans, but have lifted them after working with the CPSA.

Six California water districts currently impose filling or refilling restrictions, four of which do not allow filling of new pools. One district, Santa Cruz, includes spas and hot tubs in its ban. While some of these districts allow topping off, none allow draining and refilling. The water districts in Alameda and Santa Margarita are allowing some exceptions.

While CPSA is working with officials in water districts that seem viable, a couple are in Stage 4 and 5 droughts, leaving no room for argument.

Geremia expects the industry to confront more restrictions until the weather cooperates. “As the reservoirs draw down and the water districts get a little nervous, they’re going to keep looking at this,” he said.