The latest developments in the California drought have been mixed, and include the reopening of the National Pool Industry Research Center, one city’s passing of a drastic ban, and the anticipation of tighter statewide restrictions as a statewide ordinance is drafted. • NPIRC reopens for study

Seeking to develop a tool to show that pools are not water wasters, the NPIRC at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, is back in business.

Several organizations have banded together for a study of how various types of covers affect evaporation rates in pools. For years, it has been widely accepted that pool covers reduce evaporation and, therefore, save water. However, it isn’t known by exactly how much. Estimates have ranged from 50- to 90 percent, according to the California Pool & Spa Association.

It is believed that a 30 percent reduction in evaporation would save nearly 11,000 acre feet of water per year — enough to supply a city of about 100,000 people, stated the National Plasterers Council, which operates the NPIRC.

It is hoped the findings will incentivize water districts to offer rebates for installing covers. “There are a lot of water districts that are very interested in the outcome,” said CPSA President/CEO John Norwood.

The results also will be used to inform consumers, who increasingly are asking which covers will save the most water.

In addition to the potential benefits for combating water restrictions, the study marks a victory for the NPC, which hadn’t been able to operate the center due to financial difficulties. After a management change, the organization went back on the upswing and began preparing the center for new activity last year.

To conduct the test, the water levels of eight separate pools will be measured for 60 days, with the effects of climate conditions, wind and rainfall taken into account. Included in the testing are permanent covers, solar rings/solar squares, and liquid pool covers.

The Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, World of Recreational Water, and the Independent Pool & Spa Service Association also are participating.

• Statewide restrictions feared

As the industry experiences wins and losses when addressing city-by-city water restrictions, it also worries about the effects of a statewide measure.

The Model Water Landscape Ordinance imposes water efficiency standards on certain yards by limiting the percentage of space that can be occupied by lawns and other elements considered high in water usage. Before, it was not adopted as code and it applied only to landscape projects measuring more than 2,500 square feet when installed by a developer, 5,000 when contracted or put in by the homeowner.

For the next few months, the California Building Standards Commission will develop it into a permanent statewide regulation. The proposed language would make it applicable to more yards — those measuring more than 500 square feet for new construction, 2,500 square feet for renovation. It would apply in such yards any time a building or landscape permit, plan check or design review is required.

CPSA continues to monitor the drafting to see how the ordinance will affect the industry. The fear is that homeowners may have to choose between lawns and pools.

• Wins, losses on the city front

In July, the cities of Thousand Oaks and West Sacramento voted to rescind bans on filling and refilling pools and spas.

However, an alarming move came from Laguna Beach, whose City Council voted to ban pool construction, effective immediately. The change occurred without prior notification, and the issue was not even listed on the meeting’s agenda.

CPSA has reached out to city officials. It questions the ban’s timing, because Laguna is only in stages 1 and 2 of the drought, where restrictions generally are reserved for the highest levels. CPSA is checking the legality of the vote because the public had no opportunity to comment.

Laguna Beach is the second California city to impose construction bans. Other restrictions have focused on filling, refilling, or both. The other city is Milpitas, which is suffering a much more severe water crisis.