What is it about the federal government and its determination to throw aquatics a curveball just prior to the opening weekend of swim season? Last year, it was the confounding, confusing recall of drain covers that forced many facilities to remain closed and cost the industry still more money to comply with a poorly crafted and conceived government regulation.

This year, the bureaucrats threw in the Americans with Disabilities Act cliffhanger. Though the ending was much more favorable to aquatics, it still left many facilities in the lurch and with continued questions that remain to be answered. (See news).

It’s frustrating to say the least. But aquatics professionals need to be asking a different question than what’s up with the fed’s timing. The question you should be asking is, why does this keep happening? And how can we make it stop?

The answer to the former is quite simple: No one is lobbying for aquatics at the federal level, not very effectively anyway. The Virginia Graeme Baker Act is the perfect example. Instead of working with Congress on sensible regulation, aquatics industry groups fumbled around, pushing for a standard that ultimately led to the drain recall. It seems that when it comes to smart, worthwhile lobbying on the part of aquatics, no one’s there.

Which, if any, aquatics industry group is really an effective lobbyist? The answer, to my mind, is none of them, evidenced by what the industry has gone through the past several years. 

What about ADA? I would argue the main reason that decision favored aquatics had little to do with any industry groups and everything to do with the powerful American Hotel & Lodging Association. That group was among the first to start publicly sounding the warning bells about ADA’s unintended effects on pools. It was the first to pressure the feds to rethink how the guidelines apply to aquatics. It was largely responsible for the volley of congressional attacks against ADA regs. It kept the pressure on the Department of Justice. It employed a convincing cadre of attorneys and experts who made the case that DOJ reassess how ADA applied to aquatics. And it won. 

Would that have happened without AHLA? Not likely.

The question of additional federal regulation is not an if, but a when. Whether it’s air quality or recreational water illnesses, what will happen when the next federal regulation comes down the pike? Aquatics needs a champion for the next battle. I challenge the existing groups to work together to create one. It might even mean collaborating with new partners such as AHLA.

But industry associations can only do so much.

Successful lobbying also involves committed, informed, activist professionals. That means you. You have to get involved. You have to demand sensible government oversight. You have to hold industry associations and government officials accountable. Otherwise, don’t be surprised if swim season 2013 features yet another cliffhanger.

  • Access for All
  • The industry can’t afford to ignore ADA. Want a good reason? I’ll give you 54 million.

  • Science Fiction
  • I used to be squarely on the side of science, but I’m beginning to wonder if we haven’t gone too far.

  • Come Together
  • If AOAP’s inaugural conference is any indication, the group may have finally discovered the secret sauce that allows all of aquatics’ disparate entities to at long last come together under one big tent.