Assessing Recreational Water Health

Assessing Recreational Water Health

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Making Waves in Aquatic Health

Waterslides, pools, and diving boards are fun, but they can also be dangerous. Advanced aquatic inspection techniques and data analysis, however, can help ensure that water play remains fun for all. NEHA is exploring the current aquatic inspection landscape and investigating what barriers exist to technology use, data analysis, and inter-jurisdictional sharing of inspection data. Your participation in this assessment is an essential and appreciated part of our inquiry.

Assessment Goals

What do we hope to accomplish with this assessment? Here are some questions we want to answer:

  • How frequently are aquatic facilities inspected in different regions?
  • What digital or analog methods are used to collect inspection data?
  • How is inspection data stored, analyzed, shared, and accessed by the public?
  • What are the primary data concerns of aquatic health inspectors?
  • How do aquatic and food inspection and data use procedures differ?

Our goal is to improve the healthfulness of recreational waters through enhanced data management. Given this, a deeper understanding of how to optimize inspection and data use protocols is required for health improvements. Such an understanding will be the outcome of this assessment.


The Issue

We all like to live, work, and play in healthy environments. As the fourth most popular recreational activity in the United States, swimming is integral to how we play, and, with annual industry revenue over $20 billion, it is also foundational to how many of us work. There are more than 300 million visits to public or semi-public swimming pools in the United States each year, with most visits centered on fun or exercise. Unfortunately, the clear, inviting waters of pools are not always as innocent as they seem. Drownings, waterborne illness, chemical injury, and related outcomes are often associated with pool and spa environments. Frequent inspections of aquatic facilities are conducted to help reduce these outcomes.

The integration of advancing data gathering, storage, and analysis technologies into inspection procedures is vital to ensuring water recreation remains fun and healthy. Yet diverse obstacles impede technology utilization and data sharing efforts to improve public health. Many jurisdictions still use pen and paper methods in aquatic facility monitoring and do not publish or share inspection data. This limits the ability of consumers to make informed choices about what aquatic facilities to visit based on past health records. It also prevents aggregate analyses of aquatic health trends across broad geographic regions and circumvents the development of improved best practices for recreational water health.

Improved aquatic inspection data collection and management techniques could yield numerous benefits. Not only could they inform better inspection protocols which directly improve facility healthfulness, but they could also expedite facility design innovations, enhance data standardization, and heighten public data access. Additionally, an emphasis on improving data quality could enhance the accountability of aquatic facility managers, ensuring the wellbeing of patrons and adherence to health best practices. When inspections are aided by advanced data gathering techniques and aggregate data analysis to inform health decisions, they prove an increasingly powerful tool to ensure the livelihoods of swimmers.

Seeing that little knowledge currently exists on how data from aquatic health inspections is collected, stored, analyzed, and circulated among diverse jurisdictions, this assessment seeks to fill an informational void. Among other outcomes, the results of this assessment will help streamline current inspection data management protocols and clarify best practices for the development of data analysis/storage efforts where none currently exist.

The recreational water industry is rapidly growing and vital to physical activity initiatives throughout the country. It is our hope that this assessment draws these tides of industry growth toward a foundationally healthful standard of prosperity.

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