How Pool and Spa Pros Can Fight Drought Restrictions in 2023

After a summer of severe water shortages, and more expected, the industry needs to do everything it can to save water and head off regulations—or even bans.

Gary Thill

November 28, 2022

4 Min Read

With winter snow and rain now here, it may be easy to forget that 2022 was the driest year on record for California, and much of the rest of the nation remains in drought.

In fact, 62.8% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought, up approximately 11.9% from the end of September. Drought conditions expanded or intensified across much of the Southeast and Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee valleys, and parts of the Plains, central Rockies and Northwest. Drought conditions shrank or were eliminated across portions of the Southwest, southern Plains, Northeast and Hawaii, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA predicts drier-than-average conditions across the South for the rest of 2022 and into 2023 with wetter-than-average conditions for areas of the Ohio Valley, Great Lakes, northern Rockies and Pacific Northwest.

“With at least 40 states anticipating water shortages by 2024, the need to conserve water is critical,” said a report from the EPA.

In response to the extremely dry conditions, many municipalities enacted water restrictions. Though most were limited to watering lawns and filling fountains, the pool industry was directly impacted by the drought this summer with at least two dramatic pieces of regulation.

“Water conservation methods have grown in importance with drought restrictions having been put in place in areas across the country that have experienced extreme drought. The issue for the industry is how to prevent bans on building new pools and filling both new and existing pools and spas,” according to PHTA.

With the drought showing no signs of letting up, industry watchers say it’s imperative for pool and spa pros to start taking proactive steps to reduce water loss.

“The reality is that a swimming pool has always been considered a luxury,” said Harold Tapley, founder of Best Clear System and president and CEO of Aquos Pools. “In the last 45 or 50 years that I’ve been building pools, this is the first time where I actually feel like our industry is in jeopardy.”

Fortunately, pool and spa pros can take proactive steps to ensure their creations are not viewed as water hogs amid the ongoing drought—and help customers feel better about their pools and spas.

PHTA’s Drought Restrictions & Water Conservation web page offers numerous resources designed to help consumers better understand why pools and spas aren’t part of the drought problem, along with helpful tips to mitigate water loss.

Chief among them are using a cover on pools and spas, and avoiding unnecessary pool and spa drainage.

But Tapley wants the industry to consider another way to both save water and improve the image of pools and spas: a new approach to backwashing.

Currently, the typical cleaning of a cartridge filter requires up to 30 gallons of water, while sand and DE filters can require up to 200 gallons. Commercial pools require even more water and more backwashing due to their higher bather loads and stricter regulations. Annually, he says a single cartridge filter can require up to 10,000 gallons of water for backwashing.

The standard practice is to simply let all that water go down the drain. But Tapley has developed a system that recaptures the water so it isn’t wasted.

Rather than sending the backwash to the drain Tapley’s solution holds it in a catch basin that redistributes it to the pool once the water has settled. Tapley said the process is similar to putting dirt in a jar and letting it sit until the dirt settles to the bottom and the water is clear.

“I’m trying to be proactive and provide something that will help the industry,” he said. “I figure, let’s approach this in a positive manner rather than waiting for the government to act.”







About the Author(s)

Gary Thill

Gary Thill is an independent writer and editor with an extensive background in the residential and commercial construction sectors. He served as editor of the Replacement Contractor newsletter for five years and has contributed regularly to Remodeling and other construction-focused publications for several decades. He lives and works in Portland, Oregon.

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