While it certainly could have been worse, this year has been a challenging one for the California pool industry.
Just when it became apparent that pool businesses were decisively emerging from one of history's worst recessions, Governor Jerry Brown kicked off the year by declaring a drought emergency. As would be anticipated, stories surfaced that portrayed every stereotype professionals feared: the contention that pools are wasters by which only the wealthy people can hoard water. Some even stated that the drought would render pools passé, a relic of Old Hollywood.
Worse, the industry has had to face water restrictions as they sprout up throughout the state. In preparation, the California Pool & Spa Association hired a public relations representative and launched a campaign with the goal of raising at least $200,000. Additionally, individual builders have worked with their local water districts to try to reduce the impact of restrictions, and have been interviewed by reporters to provide a more balanced view of how pools and spas truly affect the drought.
The message has been a simple one: Pools use less water than lawns and, if covered, they use even less. Additionally, these professionals explain, the pool industry makes a good citizen, creating jobs and promoting water conservation.
It appears the message is getting out, with several pieces that provide a more balanced view. Last month, Jim Courage of Jim Courage Pools in Newcastle, provided a similar message in a story that also listed several water-saving tips from the CPSA.
And this has been a particularly good week: At least three articles have appeared in the mainstream press providing perspectives from the pool industry and its customers, and legitimized by water districts whose finding are beginning to line up with the industry’s.
• In Orange County, where builders cannot obtain permits in areas served by the Santa Margarita Water District, Cecil Fraser of Swan Pools in Lake Forest commented on the place of pools and spas in the state's culture and commerce in an Orange County Register article, stating, “The Southern California lifestyle is defined by housing in the suburbs and (is) completed with swimming pools. Banning swimming pools means you literally shut down our industry.”
• Farther north, in the Fresno-area town of Clovis, principals at Vineyard Pools and Dreamscape Pools laid it out. Said Dreamscape’s Brian Smart in an article in The Business Journal: ““It takes less water to fill a pool than to keep a lawn green.” Vineyard Pools’ Ben Bogdanof explained that his company not only encourages customers to purchase covers but also has beefed up its waterproofing application to prevent leaks.
• To cap this off, a newly released Los Angeles Times piece explains that pools have less of an impact on the drought than is commonly believed and, better yet, that water districts are beginning to understand this. In it, the story says, the Santa Margarita Water District will reconsider its ban at a meeting next week.
The CPSA reports that it has largely been successful in working with water agencies throughout the state. It seems headway has been made in the court of public opinion as well.