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Water Issues Continue to Threaten Future of Pool Industry in California

Just recently, a bill was introduced in California to ban the internal combustion engine in automobiles and trucks by 2030. California is already committed to requiring energy companies to provide 50% clean energy or alternative energy by 2030. Diesel truck owners have had to purchase new clean running trucks to operate in California, and new Cap & Trade legislation will require another similar investment again over the next few years. Climate change and clean air is the justification; the swimming pool and spa industry should pay attention to what these industries have experienced over the last several years as now similar proposals are aimed at water use.

Using California’s historic drought as justification, the Governor and various state agencies are in the process of cracking down on water consumption by all users, but particularly residential consumption. Limits on water use for landscaping have already been enacted utilizing the Governor’s urgency regulatory powers, and these new limitations have been made part of the California building codes. There are currently ongoing stakeholder discussions on how to implement these new regulations.

In addition, the Governor’s Water Plan, “Making Water Conservation A Way of Life,” proposes to limit future water use by creating water quotas for both inside and outdoor water use by renters and homeowners. These new water quotas would be enforced by the State Water Board on local water districts and water purveyors by use of both enacting financial penalties and issuing cease and desist orders.

There is now a big question for the California swimming pool and spa industry – will there be enough water allowed in these new regulations and water quotas to allow for homeowner to install and maintain the California Dream of a backyard with a pool?

Since before the drought was officially declared over in California earlier this year, I have written several articles about Urban Water Management Plans, the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance, and the Governor’s New Water Plan. I find it interesting that no one in the industry has indicated any alarm or sustained interest in what is being done to ensure the swimming pool and spa industry has a future in the world’s largest market. It seems that the industry just wants to bury its head in the sand and figure everything will all be alright in a few years. Quite frankly, that’s that attitude that brought the entire industry very close to shutting down during the recent drought.

For more than a decade after the last great California drought from 1987-1992, the pool and spa industry ignored what was happing in the water arena.  The result was that almost every urban water supplier’s drought contingency plan had provisions built into them to limit the use of water for swimming pools and spas during drought conditions. These limitation had no basis in fact or science but that did not really matter. The point is that the swimming pool industry was nowhere to be seen to point out these facts. CPSA was extremely fortunate – in 2014-2016 to be able to respond across the state with a strong lobbying and public relations effort to these local pool and spa water use limitations and in most cases got them set aside. But it’s just not smart to make the same mistake twice.

So, despite the fact that there does not seem to be any real alarm or immediate concern in the industry, CPSA is and has been actively working to ensure these new laws and regulations allow for the maintenance and constructions of swimming pool and spas in California. We were the only association to oppose and file comments against the Governor’s urgency regulations making amendments to and adopting the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO) as a part of the California Building Codes. Despite a very limited budget, CPSA has hired expert water consultants to assist our efforts in stakeholder hearings on how to adopt MWELO into practice going forward by building officials. CPSA has also retained legal experts to research the legislative history of bills enacting MWELO and to determine if including swimming pools and spas within MWELO was actually authorized by the implementing legislation. The information we expect to gain from these experts will determine what options the industry has at its disposal to fight against regulations which will be of detriment to future pool building in California.

CPSA engaged on two bills this session that would have provided the legislative authorization to enact the Governor’s Water Plan. Both of these bills were stalled late in the legislative session but will be vigorously pushed by the Administration again next session. This month CPSA will be meeting with the state’s top officials at the Department of Water Resources to discuss topics of concern to the industry regarding both the ongoing stakeholder meetings and the Governor’s Water Plan. The response we receive will set the stage for developing a plan for the industry to ensure that building swimming pools and spas will have a real future in a California where homeowners have to abide by strict water use limits.

It is expected that 2018 will see the final legislation enacted providing the Governor the authorization for implementing the New Water Plan legislation. Regulations are expected to be complete by 2020. Stay tuned…

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