If during a future drought water supply conditions got so precarious your city insisted that you not flush your toilet every time you urinate or take two-minute showers you’d expect them not to allow people to top off their swimming pools and spas.
But if a group with a major vested interest gets their way — the California Pool and Spa Association — the City of Lathrop will bless filling up swimming pools while residents use buckets to gather shower water so they can water their yards more than once a week.
The trade organization this week blocked, at least for now, a City of Lathrop water conservation policy forged in reality that would ban the filing of swimming pools and spas whenever a 30 percent reduction in water use is mandated by the city.
The five-year drought we just weathered never required a 30 percent reduction even though there were 39 million Californians sipping from a shrinking water source. But it is clear as the state continues growing even if we’re not slipping back to what some climatologists contend is a normal pattern of longer droughts in the western United States, simply having the same drought pattern of the last 100 years is a problem given California keeps growing.
The bottom line is the California Pool and Spa Association doesn’t want their members that install pools and sell spas to suffer economic harm.
They should at least give cities like Lathrop a lot of credit. During the 1975-1976 drought there were cities in California that temporarily banned the building of swimming pools. Mission Viejo made the cover of “New Times”, front pages of newspapers across the state, and the national nightly TV news when developers were forced to stop filling up expansive new pools in the Southern California city while the parts of the north state where the water was taken from lacked adequate water to flush toilets after every use.
The City of Lathrop’s water conservation ordinance — and that of other cities — is deeply rooted in public health and safety concerns as well as the fact there needs to be fairness. Without deciding things such as whether you should be allowed to use water picks to brush your teeth or have a Dough Boy pool in the back yard, the foundation for such ordinances is per capita use.
At a mandated 30 percent reduction its basic needs time — a lot of grass will go brown, some landscaping will die, and swimming pools won’t be topped.
As far as swimming pools becoming health hazards, maybe the City of Lathrop should get tough. They could mandate all new swimming pools have automatic pool covers and that pool builders guarantee their pools won’t develop leaks for 20 years.
Typical water loss in a swimming pool due to evaporation is a quarter inch of water a day or roughly 2 inches a week. Once a pool cover is employed, it reduces the loss to that of drought resistant landscaping covering the same area. So why not mandate all new swimming pools have easy-to-use pool covers?
That’s based on an analysis by the Santa Margarita Water District that shows over three years the traditional lawn covering the same area as a pool will use 116,813 gallons of water, the pool without a cover 96,575 gallons of water, drought-tolerant landscape over the same area 70,088 gallons of water, and a pool with a cover 65,425 gallons of water.
The California Pool and Spa Association might want be careful, however, about using those figures to make their case. The reason is simple. The analysis is based on a three-year time frame because that swimming pool has to initially be filled with water.
Perhaps the California Pool and Spa Association is right. Lathrop does need to go back and take a second look at their ordinance. And that second look should result in banning all new pool construction during a state declared drought emergency.
As for existing pools becoming a health hazard where was the California Pool and Spa Association during the housing crisis when foreclosed homes with unmaintained swimming pools became breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
There weren’t running around giving cities advice back then when their products ended up creating a major urban threat for the spread of West Nile Virus. Lecturing a city like Lathrop on the creation of mosquito breeding pools now when the pool and spa association didn’t send a pony and dog show on the road to advise cities how to fine tune ordinances to deal with the rash of abandoned swimming pools during the foreclosure crisis is rather self-serving.
When a city is in a drought emergency, priority must go to basic health and safety needs.
Like lush green lawns, a topped off swimming pool is not an essential use of water.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.