Water quality guidelines for public aquatic facilities: managing public health risks

Public health Public pools sporting facilities Water quality Victoria


While public aquatic facilities are vital for maintaining and promoting active lifestyles for improved health and wellbeing, these facilities have been associated with outbreaks of illness. Aquatic facility users, especially children, can be affected by disease-causing microorganisms that are passed through contaminated pool water, contaminated surfaces or through person-to-person contact.

This guideline assists organisations and people who operate public aquatic facilities to reduce risks to public health. The focus of these guidelines is on water quality associated risks. Outside the scope are risks related to pool design (such as hydraulics), physical safety (for example slips and falls), drowning and sun protection. These guidelines also provide advice to local and state government environmental health officers to help fulfil their regulatory and advisory roles with respect to water quality.


  • The information and advice in these guidelines apply to all public aquatic facilities. Public aquatic facilities are those that are commonly used by the public. They include but are not limited to:
  • public swimming pools and spa pools
  • learn-to-swim pools
  • school swimming pools
  • aquatic facilities in gyms or fitness centres
  • aquatic facilities associated with apartment blocks, retirement complexes and other strata title and body corporate developments
  • aquatic facilities associated with holiday accommodation including holiday parks, hotels, holiday apartment complexes and motels
  • water theme parks with installations such as water slides, wave simulators and ‘lazy river’ pools
  • hydrotherapy pools
  • domestic pools when used for commercial purposes (such as private learn-to-swim classes).

Specific information about interactive water features, also known as splash pads, spray parks and water play areas, is included in Appendix 1. Although these guidelines may be useful to domestic swimming and spa pool owners, questions about water quality or maintaining these pools are best directed to a pool shop or pool contractor.

Organisations that manage natural bodies of water for recreational use should refer to the latest edition of the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Guidelines for managing risks in
recreational water (refer to ‘Reference material’).

For operational matters not covered by these guidelines, public aquatic facility operators should refer to the Royal Life Saving Society Australia Guidelines for safe pool operations (refer to ‘Reference material’). This is the recognised guidance document for pool managers to safely operate aquatic facilities and includes guidance for facility design, risk management, safety equipment, first aid, asset management supervision.

Water quality risk management plans

All public aquatic facilities must have a water quality risk management plan in place to help minimise potential public health risks.

A water quality risk management plan must include:

  • staff roles and responsibilities, competency or training requirements
  • a description of the facility, its source water, and its treatment systems
  • water quality targets and treatment objectives
  • hazard identification and risk assessment
  • identification of control measures
  • operational and verification monitoring
  • data recording and reporting
  • incident response procedures.

Potential users of the aquatic facility including any vulnerable groups such as children, immunocompromised, pregnant or elderly bathers should be considered in the risk assessment. For example, an aged care or hospital aquatic facility may implement additional controls such as increased frequency of verification sampling to verify water quality is within specification.

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