Water Board Hearings

Recently proposed regulations by the California Water Resources Control Board target swimming pools. If enacted, these regulations would significantly impact the swimming pool and spa building industry in California.

CPSA hosted a Townhall on this topic on October 10, 2023. Please click here to view a recording.

Listen to this message from CPSA Chairman Scott Cohen on how you can have your voice heard and protect our industry:


Below is an update from March 2024:

The State Water Resources Control Board posted their Updated or Amended proposed regulations and schedule for a second round of hearings and written comments. Recall, these are the regulations that seek to limit the amount of water that water districts in the state can deliver each year. They essentially treated swimming pools and spa as plants for purposes of calculating water use for outdoor landscapes, which CPSA believes endangers the future of the industry, as it could place water districts in the position of discouraging the construction of new swimming pools. The proposed regulations initially mandated a 20% reduction in outdoor water use by 2025 (a landscape efficiency factor of 0.80); a further reduction to a landscape efficiency factor to 0.63 by 2030; and a reduction to a landscape efficiency factor in 2035 to 0.55. CPSA testified at the hearing on these proposed regulation last fall and followed up by filing written comments in opposition to these regulations in October. In addition, we had at least two virtual meetings with representatives of the Water Board to discuss our position and make arguments to support our position.

In both our public testimony and written comments, CPSA criticized the Water Board for not including the swimming pool, spa, and hot tub industry as stakeholders in the process of developing the proposed regulations. We also noted that the Water Board did not follow California statutes by including the industry as a stakeholder, performing an economic impact relative to the possible adverse effects of the regulation on the swimming pool, spa, and hot tub industry, conducting an analysis on how the proposed regulations would affect employment and small businesses in our industry, and that the Water Board failed to consider possible alternatives that would lessen any adverse impact on the industry.

On the merits of the regulation, CPSA took the position that swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs do not waste water. In fact, overall, swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs use very little water when compared to total water use in California. Moreover, the industry, through the installation of hardscape and removal of turf, has reduced water demand in the state by approximately 150,000 acre-feet of water each year. That number grows annually with the addition of new pools and spas. Lastly, we questioned why commercial pools were allocated a landscape efficiency factor of 1.0 (no proposed reduction) because they provide recreational opportunities, whereas residential pools and spa are lumped in with plant-based efficiency factors and are mandated to use less water.

It would appear that CPSA has been successful in our opposition to the initially proposed regulations and our position relative to water use by swimming pools, spas, and hot tubs has been accepted by the Water Board. The amended regulations alter the definition of Residential Special Landscape Area by adding pools and spas to this category:

(bbb) “Residential special landscape area” (RSLA) means residential pools, spas, and similar water features, residential areas dedicated solely to edible plants, and residential areas irrigated with recycled water, in square feet.

In addition, a new section added to the regulations that sets forth the same water use reductions but delays implementation by 5 years contains a specific provision requested by CPSA allotting a landscape efficiency factor of 1.0 for Residential Special Landscape Areas which now includes swimming pools and spas.

Adopt new section 968:

§ 968. Outdoor Residential Water Use Standard

(a) (1) Through June 30, 2035, the standard for efficient residential outdoor use (outdoor) shall be a landscape efficiency factor of 0.80.

(2) Beginning July 1, 2035, and through June 30, 2040, the standard for efficient residential outdoor use shall be a landscape efficiency factor of 0.63.

(3) Beginning July 1, 2040, the standard for efficient residential outdoor use shall be a landscape efficiency factor of 0.55.

(4) The standard for efficient residential outdoor use for residential special landscape areas shall be a landscape efficiency factor of 1.0.

(5) The standard for newly constructed residential landscapes shall be a landscape efficiency factor of 0.55.

What this means is that for the calculation of water use by each water district, the mandated water use reductions do not apply to water used for pools, spas, similar water features, or for edible plants and residential landscape areas irrigated by recycled water.

Acceptance of the CPSA position by the Water Board is a huge win for the swimming pool, spa, and hot tub industry and a precedent that will serve the industry well with respect to any future efforts to restrict water use in California. These amended regulations are now subject to public hearing and oral and written comments. CPSA plans to support these proposed regulations. We have also confirmed that a number of water districts and trade association will also provide support. As such, we feel good that the changes to the regulations relative to our industry will ultimately be included in the final regulation.


Below is a synopsis of the public hearing held in early October 2023:

Last week the California Water Board held the first public hearing to gain input on its proposed regulations to Make Water Conservation a California Way of Life. The proposed regulations seek to restrict the amount of water water districts may provide based on a formula for determining each district's needs based on limits imposed on indoor and outdoor water use of the district’s customer base. Moreover, those limits would be ratcheted down in 2030 and again in 2035. Water districts that exceed these limits could face severe penalties of up to $10,000 per day.

CPSA was front and center at the hearing, representing the California swimming pool and spa industry as well as PHTA and IHTA. The association believes the proposed regulations treat swimming pools unfairly and in a manner that threatens the future of the swimming pool industry as well as the 1.3 million California homeowners that have residential swimming pools.

These type of regulations have never been attempted previously and are extremely controversial from the standpoint of over 400 California water districts and the swimming pool industry. The hearing lasted over 10 hours. The Board heard from in excess of 110 individuals who registered to provide comments on the proposal.

On behalf of CPSA, lobbyist John Norwood indicated that the industry was strongly opposed to the proposed regulations. He pointed out that the regulations do not recognize the fact that swimming pools collectively reduce the amount of water water districts need to provide because the hardscape associated with the pool project removes those areas from irrigation forever more. In addition, Mr. Norwood chided the board for its failure to follow statutes governing the development of proposed regulations. Those statutes require the board to seek stakeholder input, consider the proposed regulation's impact on affected industries, small businesses associated with affected stakeholders, employment in those industries, and overall economic effect. Statutes governing the development of regulations also require the board to consider alternatives that would lessen the economic impact on affected stakeholders.

This was only the first of what is expected to be multiple hearing on these regulations. CPSA will be filing written comments on the proposed regulation by October 17, 2023, and expects expedited outreach from the board to meet their obligations under California law.