Officials in northern Texas could soon impose restrictions that would halt all new construction and renovation.

The North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) is expected to decide whether to declare a Stage 4 drought, which would mean no permits may be granted for private residential pools and spas. The water district currently is in Stage 3, meaning pools cannot be drained and refilled. 

The possibility was raised after a number of lakes and reservoirs had receded to approximately 50 percent of capacity.

It’s a particularly bitter pill for the industry because the district contains some of the state’s largest pool markets, including Dallas/Fort Worth and suburban communities such as Frisco, Plano and McKinney.

“Dallas is one of the fastest-growing metroplexes in the world. That’s part of the reason for the water demand,” said Tom Dittman, owner of Palm Springs Pool Service in Garland, Texas, and president of the North Texas Chapter of the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals.

It is estimated that banning permits would cost the industry some $175 million in business, based on approximately 3,500 pools per year at an average price of $50,000.

“For companies up here, it would be a devastating blow,” said Charles Barnes, president of Riverbend Sandler Pools, a Pool & Spa News Top Builder in Plano, Texas. “Most would not be able to stay in business. There are some of us who have big service and maintenance divisions that could continue on, but a company that is just in the business of building new pools would cease to exist. It would be a crippling blow to an industry that’s just coming off the mat from 2008.”

Amid this possibility, the industry is banding together through a variety of organizations, including the Aquatic Professionals Education Council in Texas, the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association and APSP. Industry contractors and lobbyists are developing a case and seeking input from other regions that have waged similar battles, such as Georgia and the Northeast.

“I’ve never seen our organization here come together like this,” said Ron Robertson, president of Robertson Pools, a Pool & Spa News Top Builder based in Coppell, Texas. “Everybody’s coming out of the woodwork for this one.”

If the restrictions are imposed, the water district has said it will recommend postponing the plan’s start date until June 1. The delay is due to predictions that more rain is on the way, as well as a recent deal allowing the NTMWD to purchase water from another source. The deferral also would provide officials more time to monitor the situation.

Though a postponement is better than nothing, its start date would fall mid-season. In response, the industry is setting its sights higher, namely pressing officials to remove permit restrictions from the drought plan altogether, as was achieved in Georgia in 2007.

“We’re putting together a presentation, verbal and written, so that we can educate and inform them of the economic consequences of that restriction, as well as try to [correct] whatever assumptions they have about water usage that may not be correct,” Dittman said.

No matter what category the NTMWD declares, individual municipalities still can modify plans and offer variances. And if a Stage 4 does come to pass, that could require local industry members to plead their cases before an even broader range of authorities.

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