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Sunday, February 17 , 2019, 10:55 pm | Fair 48º


Pool Business Riding Wave of Success in Santa Barbara Ahead of Possible Restrictions

The city has mandated covers to reduce evaporation but so far has not limited the building of pools, spas and fountains during the drought

Jim Gaskin remembers the rough times, when locals weren’t looking to put pools in their backyards and his business took a hard hit.

The pool installation gig has picked up in the years since the latest recession, however, and, somehow, Tri-County Pools seems to be having its best sales year in a long time.

Gaskin had hoped the worst was behind him, but the drought could prompt new regulations to put a damper on his Carpinteria-based business, which serves Santa Barbara and specializes in building high-end, custom-made pools on residential and commercial properties.

“We got through that; I just don’t want to go through it again,” Gaskin told Noozhawk. “Drought would be a real killer.”

So far, Gaskin and other businesses building pools, spas and fountains have been able to continue pulling permits, even as much of the South Coast is under stage two drought status.

All residential and commercial pools and spas must be covered when they’re not in use to reduce evaporation, and they can’t be refilled more than a third of their volume without prior authorization, according to Madeline Ward, acting water conservation coordinator with Santa Barbara City Public Works Water Resources Department.

The city has not yet restricted residential fountains, just large outdoor commercial ones.

Those restrictions were enacted in May, and more could come if the drought worsens and the area moves into stage three, she said.

“Generally, pools are constantly going through filtration,” Ward said. “The draining and fixing and repairing of pools, that’s what we’re trying to limit. In terms of new pools, that’s something that we’re looking at for the future. We’re doing our due diligence. It really depends on this rainy season. We’re all doing our rain dances over here.”

To help, the city is offering rebates on pool covers, Ward said.

She expected proposed future restrictions on new pool development and landscaping for any new development would be presented to the Santa Barbara City Council for consideration in December.

Because some residents might be ditching their pools or spas altogether, Ward suggested they use water for landscaping rather than just draining it.

Gaskin said local cities have prohibited pool development during past droughts, before officials realized how little water they actually used.

Most new pools are built with automatic covers these days, said Gaskin, who has been in business since the 1980s and has installed more than a dozen pools already this year.

“We’ve had ups and downs,” he said. “Realistically, if you study pools at all, they use less water than a drought-tolerant garden. You’re using the same water you put in there 10 years ago.”

In Montecito, government agencies use backyard pools to their advantage.

The Montecito Fire Protection District offers a voluntary program that allows residents to put a small blue sign outside their homes letting firefighters know they have pool water that could be used in case of a fire emergency.

The program launched 15 years ago to identify alternate water resources — especially during wildfire season — and about 300 residences with swimming pools of at least 5,000 gallons have signed up over the years, according to fire department spokeswoman Geri Ventura.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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