In the midst of a Stage 3 drought, the Australian state of Victoria has banned the use of tap water to fill pools. In response, the Swimming Pool and Spa Association of Victoria is securing an alternative source solely for the use of the industry.

The restriction took effect Jan. 1. The regulations forbid new municipal pools or spas to be filled for the first time unless a water conservation plan has been prepared and approved. Existing pools cannot be topped up without prior written approval.

The industry association has found an aquifer in the suburbs of Melbourne and is negotiating with water authority Southern Rural Water to obtain a license to pump 150 megalitres of water (nearly 40 million gallons) from the underground source.

While much of Australia?s Southeast region is undergoing drought, the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is located, has suffered the most. ?We?ve had some of our lowest rainfall and greatest temperatures,? said Brendan Watkins, general manager of SPASA Victoria, located in Melbourne. Right now, local reservoir levels only sit at about 32 percent of capacity, he added.

Though the Northern Hemisphere is in its winter, Australia is in mid-summer. Fortunately, the ban began after Christmas, which is akin to the start of swim season in the United States, so pool openings weren?t affected.

The retrieval of the water will cost approximately $350,000 (Australian dollars), which equals about $273,000 (USD). Watkins said the association will dip into its financial reserves to pay for the cost of tapping the aquifer. ?The association?s had a reasonably substantial fighting fund, and we?ve been able to draw on the reserves to invest in what?s ultimately the most vital element of the pool and spa industry: water,? he said. ?The money?s been put away for a non-rainy day, and that day has come.?

With 35,000 kilometers of coastline and a long tradition in aquatics, swimming is one of the most popular pastimes in Australia.