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Why swimming pools are getting a break despite unprecedented water restrictions in Southern California

Hayley Smith, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

"It looks real bad when you read about houses with five swimming pools and big, vast, green lawns continuing to be able to water whilst we're in restrictions," one resident, Michael Margolis, said during a town hall meeting with Las Virgenes on May 11, adding that it's not just state supplies but also federal supplies from the Colorado River that are running dangerously low.

Some water agencies in the region are taking steps to regulate pools, but many, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, are stopping at pool cover recommendations.

"During Phase 3, you will be able to fill your pool, but it is strongly recommended that you use a pool cover to prevent evaporation whenever the pool is not being used," DWP spokeswoman Ellen Cheng said. "This will greatly reduce the evaporation from your pool."

Cheng said the next highest phase, Phase 4, would make covering residential pools a requirement, while Phase 5 would prohibit filling them with water.

Still, she said, "we are asking our customers to reduce their water use wherever possible. The more water we save, the longer these limited supplies will last."

The phases apply to residential and commercial customers alike, Cheng added, so community pools will be subject to the same rules.


The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District is also asking residents to consider the use of a pool cover as it rolls out its plan for a 50% reduction in outdoor water use, said spokesman Mike McNutt.

McNutt said pools are already factored into outdoor water budgets, meaning those with full pools should be able to keep them that way. Residents constructing new pools should alert the district, he said, and those who are considering emptying and refilling pools for repairs or other reasons are asked to defer "until this emergency is over."

He also acknowledged that adjusting to strict conservation requirements is a process that will require all Southern Californians to reconsider their relationship with water.

"Behavior modifications take time — sometimes very long," McNutt said. "The problem is time is not on our side. Climate change is here, and we are all adapting to it right now. Planning and adaptation are on the same timeline. We are forced to do them simultaneously."


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