Guide to Swimming Pool Water Quality Standards: Public and Residential

Pools are a lot of fun and a great way to exercise in the heat. However, standing bodies of water tend to attract bacteria, insects, and other undesirable contaminants. Water quality standards protect the users of pools in both public and private settings.

Who Makes Water Quality Standards?

Internationally, the World Health Organization (WHO) publishes recommendations for safe swimming pool standards. In the United States, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) publishes the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) every two years, outlining recommended public swimming pool standards. No federal pool safety standards exist in the U.S., so the MAHC is only a guidance document for state and local government lawmakers.

Two major organizations provide standards and offer certifications. These are the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) and the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF). Both of these organizations offer certifications that meet the requirements of many state and local swimming pool regulations. The APSP is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), which is a non-profit organization that is broadly responsible for developing the norms and guidelines used in hundreds of business sectors.

What Types of Pool Standards Are There?

Swimming pool standards generally come in two forms – one intended for public pools and another intended for residential pools. All states have recommended public pool standards. All but two U.S. states have enforceable regulations regarding public swimming pools. In many states, there are additional local regulations imposed by cities or counties.

You can find the most recent version (November 2019) of the American National Standard for Water Quality in Public Pools and Spas (published by the ANSI) here:

Private pool operators usually have guidelines rather than standards. However, many private pools are considered “semi-public” if they are operated by clubs, membership associations, condominiums, hotels, or other such entities. The APSP wrote preliminary residential pool water quality standards but shelved them in March 2017 amid complaints that the standards would be impractical and unenforceable.

Make sure to check out my directory of pool codes and regulations to find guidelines for your state and other helpful resources.

Are there Standards for My Private Pool?

State and county laws for private pools do exist. In New York state, the law requires that private pools be maintained “in a clean and sanitary condition, and in good repair.” In Hingham, Massachusetts, the law requires that each pool be equipped with a re-circulation filter approved by the board of health.

If you’re buying a home with a pool and wondering about the water quality, make sure to get it inspected. Read my full guide on pool inspections for more info.

What is Covered in Pool Water Quality Standards?

Standards for water quality include:

  • Measurements of bacterial loads
  • Required interval of testing
  • Minimum and maximum parts per million (ppm) of disinfectant chemicals
  • Filter re-circulation rates
  • Mineral and pH level testing

Because pool chemicals react differently in the presence of mineral ions, pH and mineral testing is commonly carried out to determine what kind of treatment a given pool needs.

Related: Best pool water test kits

How Can I Make Sure My Pool is Compliant?

Refer to your state and local regulations regarding the type of pool you have. Organizations such as the CDC, APSP, and NSPF are good sources of information regarding basic standards.

You can find the regulations and pool codes by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) here:

The CDC also maintains a list of state regulations regarding pools in its resources section, found here:

For more general tips on keeping your pool safe, read my full guide on pool safety.


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