It’s been a tough year for water in California. The drought continues on for a fourth straight year, and even though agencies and officials throughout the state have been asking consumers for years now to take steps to reduce their water use conservation numbers have not shown any steady improvement. A promising looking cut in water usage one month was followed by an increase the next, and it seemed to many that Californians would never be able to make a lasting, significant change in their water usage no matter how dire the circumstances.
However, that changed when the mandatory conservation requirements put in place by Governor Brown went into effect this June. The State Water Resources Control Board announced that for June and July, California cumulatively saved 29.5% compared to the water used at the same time last year, a feat that is especially impressive for two of the hottest months of the year when water usage is typically the highest. Conserving during these hot, dry months is especially important when so many areas of the state have gone for so long without any rain, and it is not certain when rain will return in the future.
Part of the Governor’s conservation goal that was announced in his executive order on April 1st was a total savings of 1.2 million acre feet by February 2016. The massive savings in July brought California closer to this total by 228,940 acre-feet, bringing us to a total of 414,800 acre-feet saved in just two months. This is a very impressive number for such a short period of time, especially considering the fact that the amount of water saved in July is over four times greater than what was saved in July of 2014 when water saving measures were simply recommendations instead of mandates.
All of these numbers speak to an impressive dedication to conservation and the will to make personal sacrifices in order to get the state through this difficult time. However just because we have made such great strides in the first two months of this program does not mean that we are out of the woods yet. Dry conditions are predicted to last until and possibly through November, meaning that our dwindling water supplies must last us for several more hot months. The pool industry must continue to play a crucial role in this campaign to conserve, and show that we are an active part of the solution. The CPSA will continue its work defending the industry from local governments and water boards who are misinformed on the facts, and prevent them from putting hard-working people out of business for no reason. Now more than ever we are counting on your support and dedication.
54 new swimming pools and family backyards were saved this month when the Laguna Beach City Council voted unanimously to overturn the moratorium on issuing new permits for swimming pools, spas and hot tubs as initially passed at the July 14th Council meeting. Also saved were the jobs of numerous contractors and sub-contractors, permit fees and new property taxes that go along with such home improvements!
This was a big deal. CPSA had been working with city staff since the day after the City Council voted without any public notice or industry involvement to impose such a moratorium. Clearly this was, at best for the city, an opportunity to research this topic and make an informed decision. At worst, it was a knee-jerk reaction that we have observed from numerous cities and water districts. However, once the facts are highlighted, bans on new permits for pools, spas and hot tubs and prohibitions on using public water to fill new pools are very hard to justify.
The problem is that getting the facts before policy makers and the public is hard work and expensive, especially given media costs in California and the current environment where drought-shaming seems to be prevalent. That is what makes this success all the sweeter. Over the past 20 months CPSA has been working with state leaders, water districts and cities throughout California as well as the media to share the facts about water use by swimming pools, spas and hot tubs. Compared to turf farmers and almond growers, we have been wildly successful. CPSA has had over 70 newspaper articles posted and have participated in an untold number of radio and television stories relative to various proposed water use restrictions. We have had editorials posted in the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times and have even been highlighted in National Geographic just to mention a few. In most instances we now have the media on our side which is invaluable.
All of this work paid off again this month in Laguna Beach. CPSA provided the city staff with all of our materials relative to the facts about water use by swimming pools, spas and hot tubs: the economic impact report CPSA had commissioned by PK Data and numerous articles and research that supported our position that pools and spas are not water wasters. Our public relations firm, Miller Public Affairs, went to work immediately after the moratorium was initially passed. In the few weeks prior to the City Council meeting that resulted in the repeal of the prohibition on August 4th, they were able to influence the Orange County Register to editorialize against the moratorium and publish an op-ed prepared for Alan Smith that appeared in several papers, and were instrumental in an article produced the day of the hearing by the Orange County Register highlighting this issue and the effect on local citizens.
CPSA had also organized local builders, Ceil Fraser and Alan Smith, to testify at the hearing with CPSA President John Norwood. We also had the advantage and luxury of approximately 20 residents that showed up in support of our position. Last week also marked the first time the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals weighed in after having just recently agreed to hire a firm in Southern California to assist CPSA with making needed presentations before local public entities. This additional help assists CPSA with coverage in southern California which reduces our expenses, takes some pressure off local members that have been filling the void, and guarantees that we will have at least one person representing the industry at any city council or water district meeting. CPSA has and will continue working with city or water district staff who propose unwarranted restrictions and will provide them with factual materials as we utilize public relations personnel to build local media support for the industry position.
On average, CPSA has been receiving 5 notices per week that contain potential water use restrictions affecting swimming pools, spas and hot tubs. We engage with each of these cities to assess the threat and then, where necessary, engage the process outlined above. In most cases we are winning the battles. Even where we have not won initially, we keep working, and just recently 5 cities have reversed their bans on filling new pools. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the message is getting through. This week, we were alerted that the City of Yreka (population 7,700) is including a prohibition on the issuance of permits for pool construction during Stage 4 of the municipal code and Water Shortage Contingency plan. We were also tipped off that the City of Fort Bragg has a prohibition on filling swimming pools. As a result, we have begun engaging these policy makers.
Bottom line, this is hard work and it is expensive, which is why we need to keep working to expand the membership and financial support for CPSA. If you are reading this, CPSA is defending your job or business; please help spread the word.
Urban Water Management Plans (UWMP) are what form the basis of emergency water contingency plans or local water restrictions by cities and water districts. The content of the current plans, developed in 2010, are what has caused the many proposals that CPSA has been battling over the last 20 months such as bans on filling or refilling of swimming pools, spas and hot tubs and moratoriums on new permit for these structures.
State law requires these plans to be renewed every 5 years and for the Department of Water Resources (DWR) to develop guidelines. The guidelines developed by DWR are used by the cities and water districts throughout California to determine what restrictions and mandates are appropriate. As such, CPSA is focusing on this process in order to avoid the unwarranted restrictions that were contained in the 2010 plans, many of which are being proposed again for the 2015 plans.
John Norwood, CPSA President, this week made a presentation to the UWMP Guidebook Advisory Committee that is drafting the content that will be used by local communities to draft their individual 2015 plans. Over 90 local officials and advisory committee members and the staff of the Department of Water Resources participated in this meeting. The meeting was held to take public comments on a draft Guidebook that the Committee had developed.
The draft guidebook contains a compilation of water use restrictions on pools, spas and hot tubs. Section 8.2.3 states: “Swimming pools may not be filled unless authorized by a permit. Only new swimming pools are allowed to be filled. Water may not be used to fill a pool or to replace water lost to evaporation.”
In his comments to the committee Mr. Norwood indicated that, “Just because the draft contains a compilation of some of the existing local water use restrictions does not make them right or fact based. To the contrary, these restrictions are highly discriminatory to the pool and spa industry, result in no real water savings and are contrary to long term water savings.”
In both oral and written comments filed with the DWR, CPSA is requesting that the Advisory Committee strike the draft proposal and instead insert swimming pool management recommendations developed by CPSA members that will result in significant water savings while not putting the industry out of business. CPSA’s written comments and associated materials can be viewed here.
CPSA will continue to contact the UWMP Guidebook Committee and fight for the pool, spa, and hot tub industry on this issue. If CPSA is successful in our arguments, the DWR will advise all of California’s cities and water districts to submit drought plans that do not contain restrictions on filling or refilling pools, spas and hot tubs and instead recommend such mandates, such as the use of pool covers when a pool is not in use, that actually save water and are not detrimental to the pool and spa industry. This could be a huge win for the pool, spa and hot tub industry!
Over the last few years and especially during this time of drought, the pool and spa industry had made great strides in water technology and water conservation. Driven by the need to reduce water usage across the board, many pool businesses have come up with unconventional but highly effective ways to save water while still providing excellent service to their customers. In order to highlight these creative techniques, we are profiling some of our members who have thought outside of the box for water conservation.
This month, we spoke with Ken Scheer of Pool Services Technologies a water purification company based in Vista, California that specializes in recycling swimming pool water. While advances in pool chemicals and service techniques have extended the usable life of pool water to nearly ten years, there still comes a time when the water in home pools needs to be changed in order to stay clean. In most cases this would be the time to drain and refill the pool with fresh water, a practice that leads to thousands of gallons of water going down the drain. Pool Services Technologies however uses a process known as reverse osmosis to clean and recycle that pool water, cycling it through their specialized trucks and back into the pool over the course of eight to ten hours. To learn more about this process, we asked Ken a few questions.
Q: What are the origins of your company? How did you begin with such an innovative method of cleaning and recycling water?
A: We had been draining our own pools (approx 25,000 gallons each) every couple of years and felt it was wasteful. One day both Sal and I happened to meet up and were chatting about it and knew there had to be a better way (which is true, and then Sal showed me a website of a company in Arizona that was removing solids from swimming pools without draining the pool. I told him that we needed to look into this and we road tripped it out). Fortunately our pool industry and RO industry contacts allowed us to build a very efficient trailer the first time and we have been using it since 2009 with great success.
Q: Could you explain some of the details of how your water cleaning process works for those who may not have heard of it?
A: Back in 2009 we designed a mobile filtration trailer that uses reverse osmosis to lower calcium hardness, total dissolved solids, salts, phosphates, CYA and other contaminates from the swimming pool. The trailers are completely self-contained and run on their own power. Two hoses come out of the trailer and one is attached to a pump that takes water from the swimming pool into the trailer. The water gets pretreated before it hits the reverse osmosis membranes and then pure water is returned to the swimming pool. Depending on the initial total dissolved solid readings we can predict how long the process will take to lower the TDS and calcium levels below what someone would get out of the tap. There is no downtime during the process and the surface of the swimming pool is never exposed.
Q: What makes your technology different than other water conservation methods available right now?
A: Reverse osmosis has been around since the mid 1700’s to treat water. When it comes to swimming pools, pool covers can help with evaporation but if you live in areas where the water is hard, you will need to change out the water every couple of years. This technology can conserve up to 85% of the water in the swimming pool which makes it an effective solution to a typical drain a refill which can waste an average of 20,000 gallons of water and another 20,000 gallons of water to refill the swimming pool.
Q: Why would pool owners need to use your business, and why especially during times of drought?
A: Ultimately, we provide a much better end product than tap water. We guarantee our customers that the water in their swimming pool after the process is done will be lower in calcium that tap water. Since this process conserves about 85% of the existing water in a swimming pool it’s an effective process during times of a drought. Other benefits of the process include zero downtime for the swimming pool and since the surface is never exposed in can prevent the possibility of cracking of plaster or other liners. Most importantly we have conserved roughly 18 million gallons of water from being dumped down the drain and another 18 million gallons from being used to refill swimming pools.
Q: How much water would you say on average you save your customers?
A: We conserve roughly 85% of the water in the swimming pool.
Many thanks to Ken for answering our questions, and keep up the great work recycling and conserving water! If you think your business has also found innovative new ways to conserve water, contact the CPSA and we may feature you in an upcoming newsletter!
The effort to raise $100,000 in membership dues and Drought Fund contributions is going strong, but there is still work to be done! Our work in promoting the association to new members throughout the state has gone very well, thanks to the hard work of many dedicated members who have reached out to their colleagues and subcontractors. Because of them we have gained over 100 new members since the beginning of 2015, a staggering amount compared to last year when our membership numbers were sagging greatly. This increase in membership allows us to have greater reach throughout the state and more resources to continue our work for the industry, and in order to achieve our goals of becoming an active and thriving association we must continue this good work. If you know anyone in the pool and spa industry who is not yet a member of the CPSA, reach out to them and suggest that they join. It’s a simple and easy process, and this ensures that they are protected from unnecessary regulations and are a part of our statewide presence.
However, despite the success of our membership drive, the efforts to raise $100,000 for the Drought Crisis Fund are not going quite as well. We have raised a significant amount of money so far this year, but in the last two months donations have dropped off significantly. We still need to keep working to pursue this goal, and to make sure that our campaign is fully funded for the ongoing drought. If you have no already donated, please do so today. Every little bit helps, and we are dependent on you to keep this work going.