Know Your Codes – Aquatic Health Code & Water Features

How does the new Model Aquatic Health Code affect water features? 

The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) was issued in August of 2014 primarily as a revision and consolidation of outdated swimming pool codes.  The revision of the code was prompted in part by the outbreak of waterborne illnesses in waterpark and splashpad installations around the country, one being a fountain at a zoo.

The MAHC is a set of voluntary guidelines that will likely be adopted by most state Health Departments as a basis for their swimming pool regulations.  While the code does not explicitly address architectural interactive fountains, it does address spray pads and other interactive venues, which will include fountains.  When the state health departments adopt this code, they may further add their own stipulations as we have seen in New York, Florida, Colorado and California.

Some of the requirements to be aware of:   Plan Preparation – All plans shall be prepared by design professional who is registered or licensed to practice their respective design profession as defined by the state….

As water feature design is not a licensed profession this stipulation suggests that the drawings would need to be issued under the architect or landscape architect’s seal.  However, most states redefine this to read by a licensed engineer, so it is likely that an engineer will need to be engaged to review and stamp drawings.  Calculating Theoretical Peak Occupancy  – Peak occupancy = surface area / D  with D being 10 sq. ft. for Interactive water play.

This suggests that whatever your wetted area is, divide it by 10 to get the total occupancy.  This is a number that does not tell the tale of how many people get in the water feature during the day and load the filters with hair, lint, oils, sweat, and whatever is on their shoes, so size the filters and strainers accordingly. Light Levels  – Deck lighting levels require 10 horizontal footcandles

I am not sure how this will play in an architectural fountain setting but it is important to note that your Health Department reviewer could require these lighting levels. Clearly Marked – All exposed piping shall be clearly marked to indicate function

A requirement in the pump room or equipment space.  Flow Rates / turnover times – Calls for 30 minute turnover for Interactive play and requires secondary disinfection system (UV, Ozone)  Third Party Validation – Requires the UV unit to be third party validated.  Strainer Installation –  Requires a strainer to be installed after the UV unit to catch broken glass.

This requirement affects the operation of a fountain system with additional straining requirements that easily get clogged due to the small area and small mesh of the recommended strainers.  Most manufacturers will recommend a ‘witches hat’ strainer, which is labor intensive to remove and clean and can easily clog daily on some fountains. Hygiene Facilities Distance – Except as required in MAHC Section, a drinking fountain, toilet, hand wash station, and diaper changing station shall be located no greater than 300 feet walking distance from each aquatic venue.

This is an important issue to notify your clients about as the location of interactive water features is often not considered when locating bathrooms.  In parks, the addition of a restroom facility can run upwards of $500,000.  Condensate / Reclaimed Water – The use of condensate water, collected rain water or other reclaimed water for water serving an aquatic venue is prohibited.

Don’t do it.

These are only some of the things that affect water features, we would advise everyone to get a copy of the code and become familiar with it.  When designing these types of facilities it is incumbent on the consultant to know what codes affect their work.  The second edition of the code is now out and the changes to the code can be found on the following link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC): An All-inclusive Model Public Swimming Pool and Spa Code