Supplement Feature - January 2022
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Calmer Waters

The 2022 Aquatic Trends Report

By Emily Tipping

The Model Aquatic Health Code

First released in the summer of 2014, the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) was established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to help state and local government officials develop and update their pool codes based on the most up-to-date science and agreed-on best practices.

The codes that govern pool operations, including guidance on how and how often to test the water, how facilities are built, how chemicals are used to protect swimmers from disease and so on, have traditionally been created at the local and state level. Because of this, a sort of crazy quilt of regulations exists across the country. The MAHC aims to establish standardized guidance based on industry consensus around best practices. So, while local and state governments are still creating their own codes, they can do so more easily using the MAHC.

What's more, the MAHC is updated on a regular basis, which means those who use the code to help establish their own local regulations can easily stay on top of the latest guidance. The current edition of the code was released in 2018, and is the third edition of the code. The fourth edition is expected to be released by early summer.

There's been little change in the percentage of respondents to the Aquatic Trends survey who say they are familiar with the MAHC. More than half (56.4%) of respondents in 2021 said they are familiar with the MAHC, down slightly from 57.3% in 2020. Some 20.3% said they are very familiar with the MAHC, and 36.1% are somewhat familiar. (See Figure 25.)

When it comes to ensuring that the MAHC is updated on a regular basis, the Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC), created in 2013, acts as a clearinghouse for input and advice. CMAHC members take part in the process of updating the code and their input is considered as the CDC revises and releases the next edition. The next CMAHC Conference is planned for 2023.

Just 6.4% of respondents to the Aquatic Trends survey said they participate in the CMAHC. Just 0.8% are on the committee itself, and 5.6% said they have provided input.

The code is not a federal law, which means government agencies can choose whether to adopt it at all, whether to use all of the MAHC or just part of it, or whether to modify all or part of it to fit their needs. We asked respondents whether the regulatory agency that governs their facilities has adopted the MAHC, either fully or partially. The largest group of respondents to the Aquatic Trends survey—45.3%—were unsure whether their regulatory agency had adopted portions of or all of the MAHC, representing little change over the past couple of years. Also relatively unchanged is the number of respondents who said their agency had not adopted any potion of the code—35.1% in 2021, up from 33.8% in 2020. The number who said their regulatory agency had fully adopted the MAHC increased from 4.9% in 2020 to 5.8% in 2021, while those who said their agency has adopted portions of the code fell from 16.9% to 13.8%. (See Figure 26.)