Adhering to Health and Building Codes

September 7, 2022

Following health and building codes when constructing and operating water facilities is imperative to ensure they are functional, aesthetically pleasing, and safe.

Maintaining building codes not only protects against hazards but also saves money and reduces property damage. "Immeasurable losses are also avoided, such as the stress of temporary relocation, lost income, and community disruption" ( ). It is essential to check with your state and local building departments for codes regarding electrical, dive boards, pool depth, pool heaters, pool pumps and more.  

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "over the past few decades, public aquatic venues have been associated with significant increases in the number of disease outbreaks reported for each year and the continued occurrence of drownings and injuries. These illnesses and injuries can be prevented by proper operation and management" ( CDC ).

The CDC created the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) to provide guidance to prevent the spread of recreational water illnesses at public swimming pools and spas. It is a model based on science and best practices to help local and state authorities make swimming and other water activities healthier and safer. MAHC guidelines cover aquatic facility design, construction, operation, and maintenance. Following these guidelines promotes healthy swimming, reduces the need for immediate closures because of health and safety hazards, provides uniformed inspection or surveillance data, and reduces the risk of drownings, outbreaks of waterborne illnesses, and injuries from pool chemicals (CDC).  

The Model Aquatic Health Code is not law, but following its guidelines is strongly recommended. Mismanagement of water facilities can have fatal consequences. "In 2020, a 6-year-old child died from PAM after playing in a decorative fountain. Although the decorative fountain was used as a splash pad by the public, Texas public health officials found that the chlorine level was not monitored, and chlorine was not added regularly or adequately to disinfect the water" (CDC). According to the Illinois Department of Health, the only sure way of preventing primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM) is to avoid water-related activities in untreated or poorly treated water.

The Environmental Protection Agency provides recommendations for protecting people from viruses, bacteria, and toxins in the water. Swimming and other recreational activities in contaminated water can cause illness. State governments can use suggestions to set their water quality standards.

The EPA guides water management and saving. For example, they have suggested having pool cover specifications. Using pool covers can prevent up to 95 percent of pool water evaporation. It also helps reduce cleaning requirements and the use of chemicals and provides a measure of safety to prevent animals and children from drowning (EPA).

The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act was designed to prevent the tragic and hidden hazard of drain entrapments in pools and spas; the law became effective on December 19, 2008. "While checking drains is not something that many people think about, it is critical to ensure that all pools and spas have drain covers that are compliant with the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act (VGB Act) to avoid entrapment hazards, which occur when powerful suction from the water circulation system in a pool or spa causes someone to become trapped underwater. No public pool or spa should be open if the facility is not compliant with the VGB Act" (

State and county health departments regulate new construction and renovations of water facilities. Find state-specific information for treated water from the CDC.  

You must comply with building codes when constructing or maintaining water facilities. These regulations are specific to your municipality and may include requirements on decks, ramps, fencing, privacy barriers, heaters, lighting, floor slope, safety signage, diving equipment and much more. You should contact your respective planning and zoning Departments.

When partnering with our Aquatic Engineering Team, we will conduct a full site assessment, code, and regulation review. Our knowledge, experience, and skills ensure that your aquatic project will comply with all rigorous regulations and guidelines. A team of experienced professionals will oversee every detail to create beautiful, safe and easily manageable water environments.

About WT Group

The WT Group provides clients with a single-source engineering solution to help maintain the integrity of all projects from start to finish. With nearly 50 years of experience, WT Group's highly skilled engineering, design and consulting teams ensure consistency, clarity, and accuracy in the most cost and time-efficient manner. Contact us today!