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Guidance for Public Natural Swimming Pools

Have you ever wondered who determines a pool’s safe diving depth, how tall the exit ladder should be by the deep end, or how clean the pool has to be for swimmer safety? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has offered guidance for traditional public aquatic spaces since the first edition of the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) came out in 2014, but what about guidance for public natural swimming pools (NSP)? Currently, the CDC recognizes the need for a document based on a wide variety of literature focused on aquatic illnesses, chemical injuries, and swimmer safety. The CDC states that:

Image courtesy of CDC

“The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) is a voluntary guidance document based on science and best practices that can help local and state authorities and the aquatics sector make swimming and other water activities healthier and safer. States and localities can use the MAHC to create or update existing pool codes to reduce risk for outbreaks, drowning, and pool-chemical injuries. The MAHC guidelines are all-inclusive and address the design, construction, operation, maintenance, policies, and management cutting edge needs of today’s public aquatic facilities.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Additional Guidance for Public Natural Swimming Pools

Its important to understand the incredible capacity for change that this document can offer in BioNova® leading America’s change to sustainable swimming pools. While the MAHC provides resources for building traditional, chemically treated pools in the aquatic sector, there are no practices outlined for public natural swimming pools. This knowledge gap is where the Association for Swimming Ponds and Natural Swimming Pools (ASPNSP) comes in. This nonprofit is an industry resource for education, homeowners’ exchange of ideas, and the education and certification of designers and builders. The ASPNSP fosters regulatory compliance in designing, permitting, and constructing NSPs and provides a conduit for public communication and advocacy.

With so much cross-communication between organizations, it can be difficult to retrofit the language of the current MAHC to specifically include public natural swimming pools. BioNova® North America’s Allen Schnaak has led a change request process on behalf of the ASPNSP. This request is for an updated section of the MAHC to bring naturally purified bathing water into the conversation about public aquatic health. As it stands, the operating procedure states that “Public NSP permitting in the US can gain local approval through engagement with the local governing authorities, by presenting design and efficacy data that supports health department criteria and objectives.”

Webber Park public natural swimming pool
Minneapolis’ Webber Park was the first BioNova® Public Natural Swimming Pool built in the USA. Communal aquatic spaces could mirror this one with additions to the MAHC’s guidance for public natural swimming pools.

Some countries are slower to embrace what the rest of the world has been doing for decades regarding public natural bathing water. The International Organization for natural Bathing water (IOB) has global partners (including the ASPNSP) that work closely with local municipalities to build public natural swimming pools. Public pool builds have had tremendous growth in Western and Eastern European countries and with international collaborators sharing resources, the trend will continue to spread!

Taking Action for Healthy, Sustainable Swimming

So what do all these guidelines and group acronyms mean for swimmers like you? The inclusion of natural bathing water guidelines is a significant step toward nature-based solutions to the environmental challenges our society faces. These code modifications aim to recognize and include procedures for the design, operation, and maintenance of public natural swimming pools which offer benefits to swimmers and mother nature:

-Contributes to swimmers’ wellbeing by providing a much healthier form of swimming than conventional solutions for chemically purified swimming water.

-Reduces energy consumption per bather or square meter compared to traditional solutions of fixed or variable speed electric pumps.

This blog will expand on these benefits more in the future, but for now, there is action you can take as a homeowner, industry professional, student, or commercial entity. One of the biggest challenges the ASPNSP faces is shaping public perception with current data on biologically filtered water for swimming. Most swimmers have grown up with traditional, chemically treated pools. However, changing minds will be based on the interactions you have with your local municipalities. This influence and knowledge can trickle down to public awareness, and community leaders can use these resources to demonstrate bather health with confidence. If you want to be a part of this growing movement of NSPs:

  1. Join over a dozen current ASPNSP members in spreading NSP awareness
  2. Spread your dedication and commitment to NSPs as a socially and environmentally responsible choice. Start by reading our Definitive Guide to NSPs or share BioNova®’s posts on social media!
  3. Read more about NSPs and the growing importance of environmental sustainability and green building practices in the pool and landscape industry.

The shift to sustainable swimming pools will be a long journey, but one with a worthy destination. Collecting and sharing the knowledge to highlight beautiful, ecologically enriching waterscapes is part of BioNova®’s mission. Join us today in making a splash the world over!

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