Get the Facts

California is facing unprecedented drought conditions. It is critical to know the facts about pool and hot tub water use and benefits, as well as the implications of the pool and spa industry in California.

FACT: The pool and spa industry is an important part of California’s state economy.

From the tens of thousands of small business owners and employees to the millions of dollars in economic output, the pool and spa industry helps keep California solvent. Pool construction alone employs hundreds of local residents, requires permit fees and employee payroll taxes to be paid, all of which help stimulate local economies. When water restrictions propose regulations only affecting pool and spa owners, they are promoting a policy that will adversely impact the pool building industry. This industry is composed of small, local and often minority-owned businesses. By imposing such industry-specific regulation, hundreds of local jobs will be put in jeopardy and will result in less money for local governments that rely on their permits. More importantly, water use restrictions on filling new swimming pools and spas are symbolic in that they do not result in any significant water savings.

  • In 2013 alone, the California pool and spa industry contributed more than $5 billion and 54,800 jobs to the state economy.
  • The state receives $205,226 in sales tax for every acre-foot of water used for new swimming pool installations.
  • The pool and spa industry produces over $1.4 million in gross state product for each acre-foot of water it uses to fill newly constructed pools.
  • The pool and spa industry generates 11,700 jobs per 1,000 acre-feet of water it uses to fill newly constructed pools. That is considerably higher than other industries, like agriculture, which only produces 12 jobs per 1,000 acre-feet.

FACT: Pools and spas use substantially less water than comparable landscaped and planted areas.

Outdoor water use accounts for more than 30 percent of total household water use, on average, but can be as much as 60 percent of total household water use in arid regions. A well-maintained pool or spa uses significantly less water per day than an irrigated lawn. Most pool designs include more than just the pool itself; wooden or concrete decks also replace traditional lawns and landscaping. Lawn irrigation use equals 49 inches per year and swimming pool requirements are 39.6 inches per year, less walkway and decking areas equal to the actual pool area, which reduces total pool water use to 20 inches per year.

  • According to a study done by the Santa Margarita Water District, a typical 1,200 sq. ft. pool installation uses about the same amount of water as California-friendly drought-resistant landscape the year after the pool has been constructed.
  • Independent studies show that the average swimming pool installation will use one-third of the water a lawn of the same square footage requires. In other words, a well-maintained pool and surrounding decking uses significantly less than the amount of water a lawn uses in the same period.
  • Even building and filling a new pool requires less water than a lawn. On average, water use, including filling, in the first year a pool is installed is 32,000 gallons. A 1,200 square-foot lawn uses approximately 44,000 gallons per year.
    • Average water savings for first year (including filling the pool): 12,000 gallons per pool
    • Average water savings for subsequent years: 30,000 gallons per pool
  • Hot tubs are incredibly water-conscious
    • Hot tub water, once cooled, can be re-used for lawns and landscaping. Any chemicals break down within 48 hours, making spa water safe for plants.
    • The industry is taking steps to educate the pool-owning public to reduce evaporation loss through the use of solid pool covers, solar pool covers, or other devices when pools are not in use. This effort could significantly reduce total evaporation rates since the pools would be covered at the times when the evaporation rate is the highest

FACT: The use of water in swimming pools and spas is negligible compared to any water district’s annual water consumption.

A SPEC research project in the Santa Clara Valley district showed that if 800 pools were built in a typical year and each were filled with 20,000 gallons of water, the 16 million gallons needed for initial filling of those pools would only comprise 4.5% of one day’s average water use. This means that all the water needed to fill all the new pools in the area would equal just one hour of typical public water use for this water district.

FACT: A pool can be used to assist local fire departments in times of drought.

This is another way that the pool can act as a reservoir and a pool owner can feel an added benefit in his or her pool: giving back to the community. Pool owners can enter into an agreement with their local fire department so that they may pump water from their pool in the event there is a fire in the neighborhood. This agreement is an incentive for officials to see pools as a benefit in times of drought.

FACT: Municipal water supply is not the only source that can be used to “top off” residential pools.

Pools covered with mesh safety covers have accumulated enough water from rain, snow and ice to be opened without additional municipal water. The water collected on top of solid pool covers can also be filtered and placed in the pool. Additionally, the home’s downspouts can be extended to the edge of the pool to enable rainwater to augment water already in the pool. Water can also be brought by truck from other areas to supplement.

FACT: Hot tubs don’t waste water.

The typical U.S. household consumes 400 gallons of water per day. The average household loses 10 gallons of water per day due to leaks—that’s 3,650 gallons over the course of a year. Standard toilets use 3-5 gallons a flush. Doing laundry can use 20-40 gallons of water per load. In contrast, the typical hot tub holds 400 gallons of water. Because that water can last for four months or longer, hot tub water usage averages out to less than 3 gallons per day, or just 1% of total household water consumption.