Regulation Nation - Drowning in Legislation

The pool and spa industry is drowning in legislation — how is it affecting you?

In the 41 years our firm has built pools and sold supplies in Texas, we have seen a vast increase in the amount of regulation.

It’s hard to grasp the magnitude of the shift, but the mere fact that the industry now needs a vital organization called APEC (Aquatic Professionals Education Council) to lobby state government, shows how far we’ve come.

After reflection, I’ve concluded it is time to institute a more-comprehensive dialog exploring how regulation has changed or intruded upon our industry, and whether it’s been a positive or negative factor overall.

Here in Texas our industry was facing a bill that mandated certain safety measures on pools. APEC calculated the cost to existing pool owners if the legislation passed as written at about $30,000!

I arranged to meet with one of the bills’ co-sponsors. I just said to him, “Do you really want to be the one to have to tell all your constituents who own swimming pools they have to retrofit them for $30,000 in order to comply with this bill?”

Needless to say, he was taken aback, and encouraged me to send our professional lobbyist in to talk and discuss “modifying” the bill. The guy really didn’t fully understand the unintended consequences of the legislation he was proposing.

In the end, we were able to effect some changes, but the real lesson I learned was that in this age of constant regulation, we have to be involved not only in running our businesses, but defending our businesses.


It is crucial we have a debate about the affects of excessive regulation. Many pool and spa professionals share the frustrations of Skip Phillips, G3 co-founder and owner of Questar Pools, Escondido, Calif..

“Last year the water restrictions placed on the farming communities in the central valley, ostensibly to save non-indigenous smelt, decimated the businesses dependent on water,” he says. “The same government had no compulsion about driving unemployment to historic levels, and bankrupting what had taken generations to create. If anyone wants to look at a system that’s more corrupt and intrusive than their own, they need look no further than California.”

But there are others such as Carecraft’s Ken Rogner who point out the positive aspects to regulation. “There have been lots of changes with regard to regulation but some of those (fencing regulations, VGB, etc.) were needed and probably offered opportunities for additional sales if they were correctly approached.”


The regulation discussion has multiple levels. At the Federal level, there is even more to keep up with, from uncertainty over future tax burdens, which makes it hard to do long-range planning, to health care issues, VGB entrapment issues and ADA requirements for lifts in commercial pools.

On top of that are new standards written in conjunction with the International Code Council. Again, there are pros and cons to all of these issues, but one thing they all have in common over the last several years is uncertainty in their interpretation and implementation, making it harder for us to plan, hire and make good business decisions.

Changes to the interpretation of ADA provide a classic example of the profound effects wrought by government regulation. Many public pool owners planned to comply with the mandate and ordered portable lifts, which didn’t require the expense of installation. Then the interpretation was changed to require a bolted down lift at a cost of approximately $3,500 to $6,500, with installation costs doubling that, and now some public pools may opt for closure rather than paying for equipment they can’t afford or running the risks of non-compliance. The “pro” of dealers making extra money selling and installing lifts that comply can be lost if they are not selling goods and services to closed pools.

Another unintended consequence of ADA regulation is the risk caused by unscrupulous personal injury lawyers gaming the system.


Although such over-arching regulation can feel like a burden to some builders, others who do commercial work in multiple locations find standardization in building codes to be a desirable goal.

Carvin DiGiovanni, senior technical director, Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, believes that ultimately, international codes for pool building will help our industry. “There is an old adage that proclaims that all politics are local, meaning that what people are really interested in are those issues that are going to affect them where they live and work,” he says. “It’s the same for building codes. Some codes will work to your advantage and some codes will cost your company unnecessary expense, grief and time if you are not vigilant.

“The right code for pools and spas has arrived. It is the newly published International Swimming Pool and Spa Code (ISPSC) from the ICC that contains all the ANSI/APSP pool and spa standards and is now ready for adoption into local and state codes. We now have one comprehensive pool and spa code that can be adopted into all 50 states that will ensure that the industry and public will benefit from nationwide uniformity and advances in safety, technology and energy efficiency for all those who enjoy the use of pools and spas.”


Most of us are so busy running our businesses it is dismaying to realize we must now also get involved in defending our businesses, but in fact, we do. At least one pool builder this year is doing just that by running for public office at the state level. Steve Toth of Acclaim Pools in the Houston area is challenging an incumbent in the Republican primary for the House District 15 seat in Texas.

“One of the reasons that I chose to run for the House District 15 seat is the intrusive meddling in our work by the government,” he says. “I have employed a licensed repair technician since the beginning and my cost basis is double that of service companies who do not employ licensed techs. In my mind, the more the government meddles, the more difficult it becomes to make a go of it.”

Change is inevitable in the pool business, but more than ever, it is important to be aware of how regulation affects our businesses and attempt to forge relationships at a local, state and national level to have input into this change. From the onerous problems of water restrictions in drought conditions in many areas to the increased costs imposed by national regulations such as changes in health care mandates, small businesses are under assault in many new ways.

There are also opportunities to profit from some areas with creative ideas for using changes to our benefit. Participation in voluntary standards coming on board such as the LEED program is one example. It is more important than ever to network with local, state and national political leaders and develop relationships so that the voices of our industry can be heard. We must be proactive at all levels.

Comments or thoughts on this article?Please e-mail [email protected].

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