As the heat of summer bears down upon us, we’re all turning to water to keep ourselves cool and refreshed. The pandemic means that a lot of our favorite water parks and public pools are closed, or they’re risky enough we might not want to attend, so of course we turn to other options.
Portable pools are one such option, which can provide a great day of cool relaxation without many of the issues that come from public facilities. The trouble is, there are often regulations and rules about how you can set up a pool. It’s worth knowing what regulations apply before you invest in a pool of any size.
Before we begin, we should mention that we’re not lawyers and we’re not experts in pool law. We know our stuff relating to inflatable water slides and other devices, but pools are a little outside of our wheelhouse. Nothing in this post should be considered legal advice.
Types of Pools
Different types of pools have different regulations attached to them. Broadly speaking, we’re only talking about one of these kinds of pools today, but regulations might apply to some or all of them depending on the breadth of the law.
Permanent below-ground pools. The traditional below-the-surface pools are the most well-regulated kind of pool, and they’re also permanent fixtures. You’re not going to be installing one of these without significant research, heavy equipment usage, and expense. We’ll be mentioning them in passing throughout this post, but for the most part, this isn’t the kind of pool we’re talking about.
Permanent above-ground pools. There are above-ground pools that are more or less permanent fixtures in their yards. Decks are built around them. Their walls are sturdy and resistant to weather-related damage, though they may need to be repaired from time to time. These are also not the primary subject of our coverage today, since they’re permanent, but we’ll mention them as well when it’s relevant.
Large portable pools. Large-size portable pools can be the size of a full above-ground pool, or somewhat smaller. The smallest tend to be around 10-15 feet in diameter as a circle, while the largest tend to rival the size of permanent above-ground pools. The difference is, these tend to be inflatable, and are meant to be set up, used for a few days or a few weeks, then drained and stored away. This is the primary kind of pool we’re discussing today.
Small portable pools. Smaller portable pools are the kind suitable for 1-3 people at most, and tend to be quite small, though not to the “kiddy pool” level. These tend to have very few regulations attached to them, because they aren’t as big of a hazard, don’t use as much water, don’t pose a risk to property, and are generally meant for young adults, single adults, or children. We’ll mention them when relevant.
Kiddy pools. These are the smallest pools, ranging from inflatables the size of a mattress to single-piece plastic forms barely large enough for a child or a large dog. These have basically no regulations attached to them beyond general safety guidelines, and we won’t be mentioning much about them unless it’s relevant.
Let’s start from the top down. State-level laws are more or less the highest level of law you’ll need to concern yourself with. Keep in mind that any law at a lower level, which is more strict than the state-level laws, will supersede the state laws. You’ll want to follow the most restrictive of the laws that apply to your area, regardless of which level is setting the laws.
In general, liability for failing to adhere to the law will result in penalties, usually fines. Depending on the violation and any harm that was done, it can result in lawsuits, hits to your insurance, or other penalties. Rarely will jail time be considered, though it’s never entirely out of the question.
In Texas, most pool laws center around below-ground pools but may include permanent pools and large-enough portable pools. You can see the full document here.
For the most part, this document covers safety. A large enough pool is required to be enclosed, usually by a fence, with locked doors or gates and alarms in the case of pools that are adjacent to a house. Alarm disarm consoles and the like need to be kept out of the reach of children. Essentially, this all comes down to doors that stay closed and can be locked, fences that prevent accidental entry, and alarms to notify the pool owner if someone intrudes on the pool.
There are some additional guidelines, such as for Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, but these are aimed at commercial pools and spa facilities, not for residential pools. Commercial facilities have way more regulations, but they’re outside the scope of our post today.
As far as laws go specifically regulating portable pools, we’re not aware of any at the state level. All of the pool laws we can find in browsing legal databases relate to permanent pools.
Different counties throughout Texas may have different sets of laws and regulations about pools. Largely, these depend on the history of the area, and whether or not legislators in the county have encountered the need to add more regulations.
We’re based in the Dallas area, so we’re going to cover Dallas County here. Other counties may have their own regulations or none at all; we’ve found that county-level decisions rarely have pool-related laws in place. More often, that regulation is left to the city level.
The only county-level regulation we can find is the reiteration of the fence laws for state-level regulations. For portable pools, a fence is not required, but you should either drain or cover a portable pool when it is not in use, for safety.
City regulations are where things get more complicated. Different zones within a metropolis like Dallas have their own incorporations as cities and have their own laws and regulations.
For example, on the east side of Dallas, Mesquite has a whole section in its municipal code about swimming pools of all sizes. Anything larger than a hot tub needs to have a permit to construct it. Fencing around the pool is required, to prevent accidental access. Pools cannot be in the front yard and must be five feet from the nearest property line. They need filtration systems and chlorination systems, and they need to be able to drain into the city sewer system. These may, again, simply be regulations on commercial pools, not residential, but it’s not entirely clear.
The City of Dallas has a similar set of regulations, again primarily focused on commercial pool usage. Portable pools aren’t generally going to fall under this category unless you’re a business using one as part of your services.
Local Regulations and HOAs
Another factor to consider is if you live in a community with a Home Owners Association, a gated community, or another living arrangement where a group has authority over what residents can and cannot do. Different HOAs will have different rules and regulations. Some may require fencing, some may limit how long a pool can remain as a semi-permanent setup, and so on. There are as many possible regulations as there are HOAs out there. Be sure to check with any authority in your residential area before buying or renting a large portable pool.
For the most part, small pools like kiddy pools will not be regulated beyond the usual HOA appearance rules. Mostly, for example, they may not want you to leave a pool on the lawn where it can be an eyesore, or leave one in place long enough to kill the grass beneath it. Again, though, these are suppositions; every HOA will have its own bylaws, and you’ll have to research your own.
One situation where none of the above may apply is that of a drought. Droughts are increasingly common in the hot summer months, and water usage may have limitations put on it. These restrictions can be levied to minimize water shortages, maintain water equipment, make sure fire suppression systems are adequately prepared, and generally prevent the frivolous wasting of community water supplies.
As an example, this document is 36 pages of the drought contingency plan for the city of Dallas in 2019. A 2020 version may be different, and this is a plan, not necessarily what is enacted. Still, it gives you an idea of what might be in effect during a time of drought.
Under this contingency plan, residential pools, both indoor and outdoor, from wading pools on up to permanent pools, are all considered non-essential water use. Depending on the drought stage, pools may or may not be viable options.
- Stage 1, pool usage is not discouraged, but you are discouraged from draining and filling pools more than absolutely necessary. Recreational water usage that causes water run-off is prohibited.
- Stage 2, pool usage is further discouraged, but not yet prohibited. The city isn’t going to make you drain your pool, and you can fill it if you need to, but if it’s not necessary to do so, don’t do so. Additionally, a surcharge can be levied on water usage at this point for high demand, like filling a pool.
- Stage 3, pool filling, refilling, and draining becomes prohibited. Additionally, the installation of new pools is prohibited during this time, and the surcharge for heavy use dramatically increases.
This is, of course, simply the contingency plan for last year. This year’s plan may be different, and it will vary for other areas in Texas as well. Before investing in a pool, portable or otherwise, make sure to check on any droughts or potential droughts, and other regulations on water usage.
Alternatives to Portable Pools
If you don’t feel like dealing with the complex restrictions and layered laws of pools throughout Texas, we don’t blame you. There’s a lot going on, and it’s tricky even for trained professionals to know what’s going on, let alone individuals just looking to cool down in the summer.
With that in mind, there are some alternatives to pools, that can help you stay cool in the summer heat. A kiddy pool or a wading pool is generally going to be small enough that, other than in extreme drought situations, you won’t have to worry about any of the regulations that apply to larger pools. While it’s certainly possible for someone to drown in a kiddy pool, it’s much less likely, and thus the safety regulations are much lighter.
Our biggest recommendation is, of course, a water slide. Renting a water slide for a few days has a lot of benefits. For one thing, you don’t need to buy it and set it up with hundreds of gallons of water. Water slides use a lot less water than pools since you only need enough on the surface to keep them slick and safe. Water slides are also faster to set up and tear down and are much more portable than most large portable pools.
Water slides and other inflatables have a lot of variety in the fun and activies you can use them for as well. With a pool, all you can really do is swim or lounge in the water, at least without other toys and games. With a slide and inflatable setup, you can have a ton of fun without buying a ton of accessories.
Renting a water slide is pretty simple too. In fact, all you need to do is talk to us!