Ups and downs are all part of a normal, healthy economy, but from Chuck Neuman's perspective, this is the first time a slump has so deeply affected the entire system. "There were downturns in the '70s, '80s and '90s, but this time is different," says Neuman, CEO,Water Technology, Beaver Dam Wis.

According to Neuman, in the aquatics industry it's the private sector that's being affected most acutely. Growth in the public sector is still strong because in many cases, money has already been appropriated, so communities are moving forward with building and design.

What will happen in the next 12 months is still unclear.

"I think [future growth in aquatics] will depend on how the economic situation affects the overall U.S. economy over the next year, and how long the downturn lasts," he says.

One thing that is certain is that the economic downturn will cause some high-level changes in the design process. Neuman says operators planning new projects will need to consider both the capital budget and operational costs more seriously. That means considering "green" technologies and navigating new types of financing likely to become available. In an uncertain credit market, industry manufacturers may have to change the way that they do business as well, he adds.