The Los Angeles Times recently reported an uptick in the number of Southern California residents who have decided to demolish or bury their backyard pools. Those who have chosen this route cited a number of factors, ranging from "their children grew up, moved out and visit less" to concerns about dealing with cracks in the pool shell and leaks.
Then, of course, there is the drought. By inciting concerns about conservation and elevating feelings of water-usage guilt, this historic dry spell seems to have pushed some people who were on the fence about removing their pools into a final decision.
But how much pool demolition is really taking place in drought-ridden states? The article reported that more than 150 homeowners have pulled pool-demolition permits in unincorporated parts of Los Angeles County within the last three years. It also stated that 60 demolition permit applications were submitted between January and October of this year. With two months left to go this year, the numbers represent a 9-percent increase over last year’s total of 55 permits and a 13-percent rise from the 53 such permits reported in all of 2013.
However, officials from Metrostudy, a data and consulting services firm owned by Hanley Wood, publisher of Pool & Spa News, revealed a broader picture of the pool-building industry. Without a doubt, the number of pool-building permits pulled in 2015 in California, which has been hit hardest by the drought, far surpassed the number of demolition permits pulled during the same period:
2015 Calif. Pool Demolition Permits
2015 Calif. Pool Building Permits
Construction no doubt has increased briskly the past couple years. In 2013, the California agencies that report to Metrostudy issued 6,070 permits for pool construction, while in 2014 they supplied 7,669 — a 26.3-percent rise. But this year may be different. In the first three quarters, 5,005 building permits were issued, so it isn’t yet known if the pool-construction statistics will surpass last year’s, while the demolition numbers already have.
Still, pool builders inside the California border and beyond report a very busy year.
"Actually, we’ve seen that people continue to buy custom pools and spas even through the drought," said Sandy Allen, co-owner of Robert Allen Pools and Spas in Reno, Nev. "We are honestly so busy right now, we cannot handle any more jobs."
Allen contends that the drought has actually opened up a new and potentially profitable market — environmentally friendly pools and spas.
"We have noticed more people are interested in our [spas] that conserve water better and are more energy efficient than traditional inground spas," he said.
But while the economic recovery seems to trump the effects of the drought, some can’t help but wonder. Builder Gabe Givan, for instance, believes the drought is doing some damage to the pool-installation business.
"My belief is that the drought’s biggest effect has been on what we are not seeing," said the owner of Sonoma Backyard in Cotati, Calif. "[There are] people and families who have the means and desire to add a water-related product to their backyard, but have simply put it out of their minds…until we have come out of the drought."