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I have spent my entire life in the field of aquatics. Even though I have left the aquatic professional design industry and am still active. In the aquatics section I will share significant events and my insight.

The Conference for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC) aims to support and improve public health and safety by promoting aquatic recreational health and safety guidance and standards based on the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC). This newly formed nonprofit organization is operating exclusively for educational and charitable purposes.

The MAHC is a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-sponsored document covering all health and safety aspects of aquatic facility design, construction, operation, maintenance, and management. Available for free on the CDC website (www.cdc.gov/mahc), the MAHC serves as a guide for local and state agencies or legislatures needing to update or implement applicable codes, rules, regulations, guidance, law, or standards.

The MAHC was developed over seven years with direct and exhaustive input from all related sectors of public health and industry. Over 150 owners, operators, regulators, academics, manufactures, suppliers and health care professionals participated on technical committees responsible for drafting the proposed MAHC language. In addition, over 3000 public comments were received during the MAHC’s national review, with 75% of these comments leading directly to improvements in the final publication.

Why is the CMAHC needed?

In order to ensure the MAHC remains a current, regularly updated and relevant document, the Conference for the Model Aquatic Health Code was formed. The purpose of the CMAHC is to support and improve public health by promoting healthy and safe aquatic experiences for everyone. The CMAHC is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) organization.  The CMAHC’s role is to serve as a national clearinghouse for input and advice on needed improvements to CDC’s Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC).


The CMAHC works to achieve this by:

  • Collecting, assessing, and relaying national input on needed MAHC revisions back to CDC for final acceptance,
  • Advocating for improved health and safety at swimming facilities,
  • Providing assistance to health departments, Boards of Health, legislatures, and other partners on MAHC uses, benefits, and adoption,
  • Providing assistance to the pool industry on uses, interpretation, and benefits of the MAHC, and
  • Soliciting, coordinating, and prioritizing MAHC research needs


Check out the new website at www.cmahc.org.


Why is the MAHC important?

Today there is no one national regulatory authority responsible for disinfected aquatic facilities like swimming pools, spas, or waterparks. All pool codes are developed, reviewed and approved by local or state public health officials or legislatures. As a result, there is no uniform standard governing the design, construction, operation or maintenance of pools or other treated aquatic facilities. Instead, code requirements for preventing and responding to health and safety issues vary significantly across the United States. Worse yet, many of these existing codes disagree or outright conflict on key issues such as acceptable chlorination and pH levels.

The MAHC was created to give national level data- and best practices-based guidance to improve the situation. The ultimate goal is to transform the typical health department pool program into a data-driven, knowledge- and science-based, risk-reduction effort to prevent diseases and injuries and to promote healthy and safe recreational water experiences. The MAHC provides the best available guidance for protecting public health that can be adopted in part or completely by any interested agency. It provides agencies with uniform guidelines for all aspects of aquatic facility design, construction, operation, and maintenance.


Defining the industry standard for public swimming pools has been a patchwork of local efforts resulting in over 256 separate codes impacting design, construction and operations.  This fragmented process has resulted in conflicting regulations and the inability to create a dynamic best practices process for aquatic safety.  The simple fact was that the aquatic industry was not doing a good job of providing the best possible information to keep pools safe and keep pools open.

In 2007, with seed money from the National Swimming Pool Foundation, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) began to develop a Model Aquatic Health Code that is user-friendly, knowledge-based and scientifically supported with the goal to reduce risk and promote healthy water recreation experiences.

Since that time, 14 separate modules have been developed, posted for public comment, refined, and now knitted together into one comprehensive document.  This complete version was released for public comment on March 28, 2014.  If you are an aquatic industry professional, I strongly urge you to take the time to review the material and provide your feedback.  This is critical to the success of the pool industry.


Model Aquatic Health Code

Model Aquatic Health Code Annex

Comment Process

Comments are due by May 27, 2014.

During the past several years it has felt that the swimming industry has been under attack – Federal Mandates – Changing Code – etc.  What has been missing in these industry discussions is the risk / reward analysis regarding the health benefits of swimming.  In this months issue of Aquatic International I share my thoughts on unintended consquences of these decisions and the health benefits of swimming.

Aquatic International – Viewpoint – Smart Water:  Looking for an antidote to America’s sedentary lifestyles, aging, obesity and stress? The intelligent solution is as simple as water.    By Scot Hunsaker / September 2012 

In the past few years the aquatics industry has experienced an aggressive use of mandates (Virginia Graeme Baker Act, ADA compliance, APSP  codes). By my estimation, those mandates have cost facilities hundreds of millions of dollars.  Those issues have challenged the industry like never before.

But let’s not let ongoing regulatory hurdles crowd out all of swimming’s advantages such as promoting healthier lifestyles and building community assets.  Remember, jogging was popular in the 1970s; now those same people need hip and knee replacements, and they’re healing in water, notes Dr.  J. B. Smith, educator, researcher,and author of Hot Water & Healthy Living (published by NSPF).

Additonally, Smith says water submersion benefits include increased circulation, more efficient breathing and mood improvement. Water  immersion not only gives an “ahhh” feeling, but there’s also a 22 percent increase in blood flow for older people, and a 59 percent increase for young people — just from immersing the body in water!

A lot of people get it. The National Sporting Goods Association consistently ranks swimming as the top aspirational activity for  kids and seniors. It’s also in the top three of aspirational activities for all age groups.

But more people need to get the message. More than half of U.S. adults do not meet the recommended level of moderate-intensity or vigorous-intensity physical activity, and physical activity levels decrease dramatically with age. Almost one-fourth of U.S. adults report no leisure-time  physical activity, according to a 2009 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.

Sedentary lifestyles have been showing up in children as  well: Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The percentage of children ages 6 to 11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 20 percent in 2008. The percentage of adolescents ages 12 to 19 years who were obese increased from 5 percent to 18 percent over the same period. In 2008, more than one-third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

In 2010, the U.S. population included 40 million over the age of 65; in 2050, that number will be a staggering 88.5 million, with many seniors becoming sedentary.  Aquatics holds the antidote to all these problems.

Children love  splashing, floating and diving — and adults can feel like kids again. Regular physical activity also helps the elderly maintain joint strength and mobility, substantially delaying the onset of loss of independence. Water is versatile: gentle on the body, yet has a resistance 12 times stronger than air.

After kids and adults learn to swim, there’s another world  waiting out there. Besides swim teams and lap swimming, there’s an abundance of  innovative components being designed for today’s aquatics centers, and it goes beyond diving boards and water slides. Components include dramatic bouldering  walls for climbing. The wall leans out over the pool, allowing climbers to traverse the wall through numerous waterfalls without the need for ropes, harnesses and the like. Infinity-edge pools feature rope swings or  zip lines, which offer the thrill of going  airborne with an exciting splash landing.

Another case in point is a lazy river made into a kayak  course. With boulders that can be relocated for varying flow characteristics,  the course is anything but lazy. Water floatables now include obstacle courses for individual and team challenges. Components include a base, balance beam, bridge, slide, long jump and high jump, all of which quickly and easily connect together for customizable competitive events.

For older adults, we’re seeing an influx of spa amenities at  aquatics centers, such as adventure showers with soft waterfalls and fog jets. Saltwater grottos offer concentrated saline baths enriched with salt from the Dead Sea. The waterscape offers a soft play of atmospheric underwater lights  and music, where guests can weightlessly float in a unique state of balance — a real elixir for the stressed body and soul. Sauna gardens with aromatic scents  of eucalyptus, spruce and mint extracts evoke a sense of fascination, stimulation  and contemplation, thanks to ergonomically shaped loungers and meditative music. What fun ways not to be sedentary!

Despite the onus of swimming pool mandates, we cannot lose focus on teaching people to swim and inviting them to use their treasured community assets to grow families and promote healthy lifestyles. The National Swimming  Pool Foundation is making it a priority to support education and research for  healthier living, understanding that the aquatics industry is a critical ingredient for healthy living. Will you join their efforts?