New Year prognostications aren’t for the timid. Invariably, the predictor ends up looking ridiculous when the forecasts don’t come to pass. No matter how much experience or inside information you might have, the world has a way of surprising you. Put another way, want to make God laugh? Make a plan.
All those caveats aside, here are five aquatic issues I’ll be watching in 2011. I’ve also made predictions about what I think will happen with each of these. Just promise me you won’t laugh.
1 ADA. After years of existing as merely a guideline, the federal government finally made the Americans with Disability Act swimming pool guidelines a law. After March 2011, facilities will have one year to comply with the standard for accessible design or face potential liability. If VGB is any indication of what happens when a federal law goes into effect, this one will have some serious impacts — and lead to much confusion and hand wringing.
My Prediction: Given the industry’s track record with past federal law enactments (see No. 3 on the list), the majority of facilities will still be scrambling to comply come March. Many will likely be surprised that such a change had even happened. Don’t be among them. Make it a point to learn about ADA and how it applies to your facility. There’s a great discussion about that very subject on AI Connect.
2 MAHC. After years of work, the CDC’s Model Aquatic Health Code is finally ready for its close-up. All aquatics professionals would be wise to pay attention. The MAHC is the first attempt to create a unified national aquatic code. The goal is to provide a set of best practices — based on science and data — that states can adopt whole or in part as their own. The first module (operator training) is officially out for public comment. That’s the first of 12 such modules. Yes, the MAHC is ambitious and far-reaching. And you can bet that one of the first groups of people to be studying it will be plaintiff's attorneys.
My Prediction: Most professionals will fail to take part in the public comment process. This same group will complain that no one gave them the opportunity. They will rail against the new best practices document and decry this latest example of big-brotherism on the part of the federal government.
3 VGB. After three years as a federal law, you’d think this would have finally gone away. What could possibly be worth watching about the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & Spa Safety Act? Plenty. On the bright side, CPSC’s Pool Safely program, which was in its infancy in 2010, will see an impressive maturation in 2011. CPSC has teamed with new partners and its anti-drowning message for consumers and professionals is gaining strength. On the other hand, even three years after implementation, questions, concerns and confusion remain about VGB, and CPSC investigation is ongoing.
My Prediction: VGB will continue to vex the industry with ongoing issues around installation and certification.
4 Air quality. The studies and the evidence keep mounting: Disinfection byproducts in aquatic environments are harmful. Some studies show a link to asthma. Newer studies even suggest a link to cancer.Naysayers can question the studies all they want, but it’s no longer possible to deny that air quality is a central issue for aquatics and will become even more so in 2011.
My Prediction: More studies will make links to DBPs and harmful effects. Most aquatic professionals will either ignore such studies or refuse to act on the changes they recommend. A major lawsuit or a series of them will finally force the industry to take notice.
5 Credit. As our main news story makes clear, credit is still a big issue for aquatics, especially waterparks. One consistent message I hear from architects and designers is that demand for new parks is there, but no one can get credit. Unfortunately, until credit becomes more accessible, the industry’s economic recovery will continue to stumble and stutter. There’s a lot riding on this one.
My Prediction: Credit will remain tight, but slowly start to loosen as the year goes on. Private waterpark projects will remain the most difficult to finance.