Aquatics Industry Addresses Challenges of Drought

Near the end of March, nearly 40% of California was experiencing "extreme drought," and 100% of the state was affected by moderate drought, according to the U.S. drought monitor. Water restrictions are in place, and the state's most critical industries are bracing for impact. The aquatics industry is no execption, and industry professionals have been aiming to get ahead of rumors and myths about pools and drought by proactively sharing facts on water use, and the economic, social and public health implicaitons of the pool and spa industry in California.

Let's Pool Together, a joint effort between the California Pool and Spa Association (CPSA) and the Pool & Hot Tub Alliance (PHTA) aims to educate the public as well as policy-makers on how pools and spas are not part of the drought problem, but can be part of the solution.

We asked Sabeena Hickman, CEO of PHTA, to offer some more input on how pools and spas can be water-conscious investments, as well as what any aquatic professional can do in times of drought.

RM: Can you describe the real impact pools and spas have on water use vs. misconceptions?

Sabeena Hickman, PHTA CEO: As drought conditions continue to intensify in California, local governments are likely to impose strict water use restrictions. We've seen it happen in the past, due to general misconceptions surrounding the water use of pools, hot tubs and spas.

Independent studies show that the average swimming pool installation will use one-third of the water a lawn of the same square footage requires. In addition, most pools include some sort of surrounding decking, further reducing the amount of water that would be used to irrigate a lawn of the same size.

A California SPEC (California Spa & Pool Industry Energy, Codes and Legislative Council) research project in the Santa Clara Valley district showed that if 800 pools were built in a typical year and each were filled with 20,000 gallons of water, the 16 million gallons needed for initial filling of those pools would only comprise 4.5% of one day's average water use.

Even building and filling a new pool requires less water than a lawn. Water use for the first year, including filling, averages 32,000 gallons. A 1,200-square-foot lawn uses approximately 44,000 gallons per year.

Hot tubs are incredibly water-conscious investments. Standard toilets use 3 to 5 gallons per flush. Laundry can use 30 to 40 gallons per load. A typical hot tub holds 400 gallons of water, but that water can last for four months or longer, averaging out to less than 3 gallons per day, or the equivalent of a toilet flush.

RM: How can the aquatics industry help in times of drought?

Hickman: The pool, hot tub and spa industry is a critical part of California's economy. In 2020 alone, the industry contributed more than $5 billion and 94,000 jobs to the state economy. Pool, hot tub and spa manufacturers, construction companies and retail, accessory and service providers all have a role to play in educating consumers on water conservation and pool maintenance to boost conservation efforts during drought periods. Additionally, the pool and spa industry aims to be a resource for policymakers to ensure they are enforcing water use policies that benefit the state and have a direct impact on the drought. Based on what I've shared, restrictions on this industry are merely symbolic and do not account for measurable water savings in times of drought.

RM: What advice do you have for pool operators looking to use less water?

Hickman: It's absolutely critical that we all play a role in conserving water. While the facts are clear that pools and spas can be incredibly water-wise investments, there are plenty of things that can be done as an added layer of water conservation:

  • Cover up. A pool can lose up to a quarter-inch of water per day from evaporation in warm-weather areas. The best and easiest way to conserve water is to use a pool cover. Pool covers save a significant amount of water loss to evaporation.
  • Check for leaks and cracks. Even with careful maintenance, the smallest leak or crack can decimate conservation efforts. The average household loses 10 gallons of water per day due to leaks. That's 3,650 gallons over a year.
  • Clean your filter. When the filter is dirty, pool owners and operators have to backwash it to clean it, which wastes between 250 and 1,000 gallons of water. By taking extra care to clean and maintain the filter, you can avoid backwashing and enjoy the added benefit of having crystal clear pool water.
  • Shut off waterfalls, fountains and other water features to reduce water loss and evaporation.
  • Keep cool. Warm water evaporates more rapidly than cool water, so only use the heater when needed. Additionally, investing in cooling pumps can help lower the water temperature by 15 degrees and help save even more water.

We also provide general water conservation tips for inside and outside of the home to increase the public's awareness of other ways they can conserve water on our website,