Commercial swimming pools
Do I need an approval?
Who needs an approval?
Pools operating in the following situations require a licence from Council:
- Aquatic centres
- Learn to swim pools
- Gym and health centre pools
- Holiday accommodation pools
- Club pools
- Private school pools
- Swimming pool under a body corporate of a group subdivision scheme (3 or more dwellings)
Who does not need an approval?
Pools operating in the following situations do not require a licence from Council:
- Swimming pool at single or two residential dwellings
- State school swimming pool
- Council pools
Before you start
If you are starting a new commercial swimming pool, taking over or making changes to an existing business, you will need to consider planning, building , and plumbing approvals.
Your first step when starting a commercial swimming pool is to check if you need planning approval.
Council’s planning scheme guides how land can be used, developed and changed.
Commercial swimming pools may need planning approval for these activities:
- starting a new commercial swimming pool
- changing the type of activity (e.g. from private pool to commercial pool)
- re-establishing a swimming pool that has been abandoned
- changing the scale of activity (e.g. adding a new pool)
- carrying out building work (e.g. replacing an existing pool)
- carrying out plumbing or drainage work.
To find out if you need to submit a development application, you can:
- lodge an enquiry with Council
- arrange a pre-lodgement meeting with Council
- engage a town planning consultant registered with the Planning Institute of Australia
- self-assess your property details against Council’s planning scheme.
Building work for commercial swimming pools may include:
- building a new pool
- installing an awning.
All building work is assessed against the building assessment provisions (including, but not limited to, the National Construction Code and the Queensland Development Code) which set the minimum requirements for building structure, fire safety, access and egress, health and amenity, and energy efficiency.
To find out if you need building approval, you can:
Compliance certificates for building work
Assessable building work requires building approval from a building certifier. Sometimes the building certifier relies on advice from other people for assessing the design/specification and inspection of buildings.
The building certifier uses these forms to accept advice on assessable building work.
- Form 15 specifies the design and its limitations.
- Form 16 confirms the installation or construction meets the design.
Your building certifier will collect these forms if necessary.
All swimming pools must meet the requirements of Queensland Development Code MP 3.4 – swimming pool barriers.
During the licence application process, Council may ask for a Form 15 that certifies the design meets MP 3.4 (or some other major component of your business), and a Form 16 to certify that the component was installed to the design specification.
Find out more about Forms 15 and 16.
Pool safety barriers
The current pool safety laws apply to many types of pools regardless of when they were constructed or whether they are indoor, outdoor, private or commercial.
All properties with a pool must have:
- a compliant pool barrier; or
- a pool safety management plan that has been approved by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission.
To have a compliant pool barrier, you need to:
- obtain building approval before installing the pool
- obtain a certificate from a licensed building certifier that says the pool and the pool barrier comply with the pool safety standard before filling the pool with more than 300 millimetres of water (Form 17)
- ensure the pool is included in the pool safety register .
If you are selling or leasing your pool, you need to:
- obtain a certificate from a pool safety inspector or a building certifier stating that the pool barrier complies with the pool safety standard (Form 23).
Refer to the guidelines for pool owners and property agents for more information on obligations for pool safety, pool safety certificates, the pool safety register, and pool safety inspections.
Plumbing and drainage approval
Commercial swimming pools may need plumbing and drainage approval for the following activities:
- release of trade waste to sewer
- installation and maintenance of backflow prevention devices
- use of non-reticulated water supply (tank water).
Plumbing and drainage work should be conducted by a licensed plumber.
Contact Council or your local water authority for more information.
Trade waste consent
Trade waste is liquid waste produced by a business. All businesses require consent from the local water authority to release trade waste to the sewer.
Some commercial swimming pools also need pre-treatment equipment and monitoring equipment (e.g. separator or interceptor) before discharge to sewer. Outdoor pools should have first flush or diversion valves in place to control overflow when it rains.
The property owner or tenant (depending on the lease agreement) is responsible for organising trade waste consent including the installation of any pre-treatment equipment.
Contact Council or your local water authority for more information on trade waste consent.
Backflow prevention devices
Backflow prevention devices stop sewage flowing back through to the town’s water supply. There are two different types of backflow prevention devices, testable and non-testable.
All commercial swimming pools connected to town water require a non-testable backflow prevention device. A licensed plumber can install a non-testable backflow prevention device for you.
Commercial swimming pools with a pre-treatment device will need to have a testable backflow prevention device. A testable backflow device must be:
- installed by an endorsed backflow plumber
- registered with Council by the endorsed backflow plumber
- inspected or tested annually by a licensed plumber.
Contact Council or your local water authority for further information about backflow prevention devices.
Non-reticulated water supply
Reticulated water is drinkable water supplied by the local water authority. Non-reticulated water is any other water you have access to (e.g. rainwater, groundwater from wells or bores, or greywater from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances).
Some local governments require the use of rainwater or greywater systems for new buildings. A list of participating local governments is available on Department of Housing and Public Works.
Commercial swimming pools should use rainwater to maintain the pool.
Commercial swimming pools can also use rainwater or greywater (or other non-reticulated water) for non-drinking purposes, including flushing toilets, gardening, and as cold water for washing machines.
The installation of a non-reticulated water supply must meet the requirements of the Queensland Development Code MP 4.3 – Supplementary Water Sources. A plumbing approval is not required to use rainwater or greywater in your building, but your plumber will need to notify the Queensland Building and Construction Commission. Your plumber will provide you with a copy of the notification.
You may need planning or building approval for storage tanks larger than 10m2, or if the tank is located in a cyclone area.
Contact Council or your local water authority for more information about the use of a non-reticulated water supply.
How to apply
The applicant for a licence must be a legal entity (e.g. person/s or company. Note - a trust name, business name or shop name is not a legal entity and cannot be the licence holder).
A new application is not required for minor changes (e.g. a change of contact details). Contact Council for these changes. Find out how to make changes to an existing licence in this section.
Use this information to assist you in ensuring your application is complete and to consider other applications that may be required for your business.
You may be required to submit plans with your application. The plans should include:
- a plan showing all pools and facilities, exits, sanitary facilities, water supply, location of security lighting, location of potential noise sources, and any food preparation areas (if applicable)
- a site plan showing the location of premises in regard to other premises.
Application process - new
This process is for starting a new commercial swimming pool that requires a licence with Council.
You must obtain the relevant planning approval, building approval and plumbing approval before you submit a commercial swimming pool application.
- Submit your commercial swimming pool application to Council using the approved form. You are responsible for ensuring the application is complete.
- Council will process your application within the legislative or agreed timeframe. Council will contact you should additional information be required to process the application.
- When Council approves your plans, you may begin the fit out. Your building certifier and licensed plumber will advise if any further building or plumbing approvals are required.
- Upon completion of the fit out, contact Council for an inspection.
- Council may inspect the premises before making a decision.
- When Council approves your licence, you can commence business in accordance with the approved conditions.
Application process - taking over
This process is for taking over an existing commercial swimming pool.
You may apply for a search of Council records for information on the current commercial swimming pool activity and the conditions of approval. This process may require written permission from the vendor.
- Submit your commercial swimming pool application to council using the approved form. You are responsible for ensuring the application is complete.
- Council will process your application within the legislative or agreed timeframe. Council will contact you should additional information be required to process your application.
- Council may inspect the premises before making a decision.
- When Council approves your application, you can then operate in accordance with the approved conditions.
Application process - making changes
This process is for making changes to an existing commercial swimming pool licence.
Adding extra facilities or renovating your premises could change current planning, building and plumbing approvals. Contact Council to discuss any changes to your business prior to commencing work.
- Submit your commercial swimming pool application and plans to council using the approved form. You are responsible for ensuring the application is complete.
- Council will process your application and plans within the legislative or agreed timeframe. Council will contact you should additional information be required to process the application.
- When Council approves your plans, you may begin the fit out. Your building certifier and licensed plumber will advise if any other building or plumbing approvals are required.
- Upon completion of the fit out, you must contact Council for an inspection prior to commencing operation.
- When Council approves your application, you can then operate in accordance with the approved conditions.
If you need to amend details on your approval or require a copy of your approval contact Council.
A notice will be sent prior to the expiration of your current approval.
Advertising signs licence
Some councils have rules about the type and location of any advertising signs for businesses. Depending on the type of advertising sign, you may need to obtain a licence. Find out more about advertising signs.
Food business licence
If you intend to sell or serve food on the premises you may need to apply for a food business licence. Find out more about food business licences.
If you intend to sell or serve alcohol on the premises you will need to apply for a liquor licence. Visit the Business Queensland website for information on liquor licences.
Business trading name
If you are registering a new business name, you will need to contact Australian Securities and Investments Commission.
Life saving qualifications
Whilst it is not mandatory, it is strongly recommended that you undertake some relevant training in pool operation and lifesaving.
Public liability insurance
Whilst Council does not require you to have public liability insurance for this permit, you should research all options regarding your business insurance requirements.
How to comply
Council operates within a total compliance framework by incorporating education, regulation and enforcement in ensuring businesses are compliant.
It is the responsibility of you and your staff to ensure compliance with all requirements of the relevant legislation. A key issue in complying is to ensure safe water quality in your pool.
To assist in complying with requirements, a range of tools and resources has been developed. You are encouraged to use these tools and resources in the day-to-day operations of your business.
Completed templates and checklists should be filed and stored as part of your business records.
The tools and resources developed by Council allow you and your staff to know what is required to ensure your business is operating lawfully. When used effectively, these tools will assist your business to minimise the impact on your customers and the environment and to avoid enforcement action.
Regulation (Inspection process)
Council is required to monitor the standard of operations in swimming pools and this is achieved through a routine inspection program.
Refer to the self-assessment checklist in tools and resources to be aware of the issues Council will be assessing when visiting your business.
If you are operating a swimming pool you must have a current approval and comply with the relevant legislation, guidelines and all conditions on your approval.
If you have difficulty complying, contact Council.
Failure to comply may result in one or more of the following enforcement actions:
- a letter being issued requiring action or work to be conducted
- a legal notice being issued requiring action to be taken or work to be conducted
- penalty infringement notice (PIN) or on-the-spot fine
- suspension of an approval
- cancellation of an approval
- pool closure
Council has a duty to investigate and respond to complaints received.
A complaint may result in an inspection of your premises to ensure you are complying.
Tools and resources
These links cover a range of tools and resources that can assist you to provide safe swimming facilities for your customers.
Operator Self Assessment Checklist
Black spot algae
Black spot algae is difficult to remove as it embeds in the pitted walls and floors of swimming pools and on grout between tiles. The visible black spot is only the top of the organism. This part can be removed but it will generally regrow within a few days.
Algal spores often take root on swimming pool walls and floors when the swimming pool is drained of water, and grow when the swimming pool is filled with water.
It is easier to prevent black spot algae than to control it once it has become established in your swimming pool. Black spot algae can be prevented by:
- maintaining a free Chlorine level of 1.5 ppm or greater at all times
- thorough distribution of chlorine throughout the swimming pool by adequate mixing and circulation of the pool water, especially in the corners and the deep end
- removing leaves and debris by vacuuming at least once a week to reduce the availability of nutrients and keep chlorine at high enough levels
- disinfecting the walls and floors of a drained pool with a 1 ppm solution of sodium hypochlorite.
Small clusters of black spot algae in an empty swimming pool can be controlled by putting powdered chlorine directly onto the infected area, leaving it overnight and scrubbing it with a stainless steel brush the following day. Ensure you carefully read the product instructions for personal and environmental protection. Do not use wire brushes on vinyl lined swimming pools.
If a swimming pool has a lot of black spot algae and cannot be controlled by raising the chlorine dose or scrubbing, the following procedure is recommended:
- Drain the swimming pool until only a few centimetres of water remain.
- Using a stiff bristle brush or a high pressure water jet, clean the entire surface of the swimming pool removing as much algae as possible. Be careful not to lift the paint.
- Prepare a 10:1 sodium hypochlorite solution, enough to completely wet the walls and floor of the swimming pool.
- Completely wet the entire surface of the swimming pool (protective goggles, gloves, rubber boots and overalls should be worn). Start at the shallow end and work towards the deep end.
- All surfaces infested with black spot algae should be scrubbed vigorously with the hypochlorite solution.
- Continue to wet the walls and floor with the hypochlorite solution for a further half hour before hosing off.
- If the water on the swimming pool floor is dirty it should be heavily diluted with additional fresh water allowed to drain away. This highly chlorinated wash water must then be neutralised with sodium thiosulfate before discharge. It must not be allowed to enter a waterway or stormwater as it will kill aquatic organisms. Note: 248 grams of sodium thiosulfate will neutralise 280 grams of chlorine.
- Refill the swimming pool with water and ensure the free chlorine residual is at least 1.5 ppm to 2 ppm.
For alternative pool treatments for black spot algae, contact your local swimming pool shop for products such as Black Spot Remover.
This content is also available as the black spot algae fact sheet (DOC, 617.5 KB). The information was initially developed by Redland Shire Council, and is recognised and adopted by participating Queensland Councils.
Green swimming pools
What causes pool water to turn green?
Pool water turns green because of algal overgrowth. Green algae is a common problem in swimming pools where chlorine levels are too low. Chlorine levels can become too low because of a chlorine lock, photolysis or simply not enough chlorine.
Chlorine lock occurs when there is too much cyanuric acid put into the swimming pool (cyanuric acid is the stabiliser used to prevent the loss of chlorine by the sun). Chlorine lock occurs when cyanuric acid concentrations exceed 50 ppm (the optimum concentration for cyanuric acid is 38 ppm).
Photolysis is when UV light from the sun breaks down the chlorine molecules causing chlorine to evaporate, resulting in chlorine loss. Correct amounts of stabilisers will help prevent photolysis. Chlorine levels should be maintained between 1 ppm to 3 ppm.
How to change your pool from green to pristine
To rid your pool of algae try the following:
- Vacuum any dead or brown algae from the swimming pool floor as this will help maintain your chlorine levels by reducing the nutrients in the water. Backwash the filter to remove any algae or nutrient material.
- If you use a water stabiliser, check your stabiliser concentration. If it is more than 50 ppm, empty some water out of the swimming pool and refill it with fresh water until the stabiliser concentration is around 38 ppm. If you don’t have a test kit, your local pool shop can test the water for you.
- Check your chlorine levels. If your chlorine levels are below 0.5 ppm, there is not enough chlorine to kill the algae.
- Shock dose the swimming pool to 10 ppm, keep your filters running and do not use your pool until the chlorine level falls below 3 ppm.
- Check your chlorine levels often to ensure at least 1 ppm concentration is maintained. If using a stabiliser again, adjust your chlorine concentration to at least 2 ppm.
What if the water is beyond saving?
If your swimming pool has not been maintained for a long period of time it will probably have a high level of algal growth and be a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes. Your swimming pool may require draining and cleaning.
This content is also available as the green swimming pools fact sheet (DOC, 615 KB). The content was initially developed by Redland Shire Council, and is recognised and adopted by participating Queensland Councils.
Safety and signage
Drowning Prevention information is not “for someone else”. It is for you. Because only by increased awareness and effort can we reduce some very alarming statistics.
Drowning is one of the largest causes of accidental death for children under the age of 5 years. Learn how to help prevent these unfortunate accidents by making your pool or spa safer.
Councils have certain responsibilities in accordance with their local laws. The object of these local laws is to generally ensure that swimming pools generally comply with essential standards of health and safety.
- If you currently have, or have had diarrhoea in the last 14 days, you should not enter a swimming pool.
- Use the toilet, shower and soap before entering a pool.
- Avoid swallowing/drinking pool water.
- Wash hands thoroughly after using the toilet or changing nappies, using soap.
- Do not allow babies, toddlers or incontinent persons to enter the water with soiled nappies or naked. Use of waterproof pants might be considered.
- Do not change nappies beside the pool or rinse an undiapered child in the pool.
- Accidents can happen. If you or your children are at somebody else’s pool and don’t quite make it to the toilet please tell the occupier immediately.
- Never leave a child alone out of eye contact supervision in or near the pool or spa – not even for a second.
- Young children should never be considered water safe despite their swimming skills, previous instruction or experience.
- Access to the pool or spa should be limited by fencing and locked doors or gates in accordance with the Queensland Government guidelines for Swimming and Spa Pool Water Quality and Operational Guidelines.
- Do not place objects (e.g. chairs or tables) near the pool or spa fence that would allow a youngster to climb over. Tree limbs and low overhanging roofs should be removed or made accessible.
- A float line stretched across the pool indicating where the deep end begins can avoid a dangerous excursion by young children over their heads.
- A clear view of the pool or spa from the house should be assured by removing vegetation and other obstacles.
- Reaching and throwing aids should be kept on both sides of the pool. These items should remain stationary and not be misplaced through play activities.
- If you use a pool or spa cover, carefully read the manufacturer’s directions for safe installation, use and maintenance. Always completely remove the cover before using your pool or spa, to avoid the possibility of anyone being trapped under the cover. Drain any standing water from the surface of the cover. An infant or small child can drown even in the smallest amount of water. Be especially alert for the potential for drowning accidents if you use any of the lightweight, floating pool or spa covers. These covers are not solid and no one can crawl or walk on them. They are not for safety.
- Teach your children good pool or spa safety habits: no running, pushing playmates, no jumping on others, no diving or jumping in shallow water or ‘dunking’.
- Do not rely solely on plastic inner tubes, inflatables, armbands or other toys to prevent accidents.
- Keep toys, particularly tricycles or wheel toys, away from the pool or spa. A child playing with these could accidentally fall into the water.
- Do not allow anyone of any age to swim without a ‘spotter’ nearby. Examples of good safety behaviour by adults are important for young children.
- During social gatherings, be certain that someone has the major responsibility for watching the children and swimmers at all times.
- Do not permit playful screaming for help (false alarms), which may mask a real emergency.
- Teach your children the most effective way to get out of the pool or spa quickly.
- Do not allow your child to swim immediately after eating a heavy meal.
- Do not allow swimming during thunder or other storms.
- Do not allow glass in the pool or spa area.
- Do not allow the use of drugs or alcohol by persons using the pool or spa, or in the pool or spa area.
Prepare for an Emergency
- Poolside rescue equipment, including a ring buoy with an attached line and/or long handled hook, should be available to assist in removing victims from the water. This equipment should never be used for play.
- Emergency procedures, particularly a resuscitation sign should be clearly written and posted in the pool area.
- In case of an emergency:
- Dial the emergency telephone number 000.
- Give your name, location, and telephone number you are calling from.
- Tell what happened and how many people need help.
- Don’t hang up the phone until after the emergency operator does.
- Adults in the family should be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). CPR is the combination of rescuer breathing and artificial circulation for victims off respiratory or cardiac arrest as a result.
This content is also available as the pool safety and signage fact sheet (DOC, 617.5 KB). The content was initially developed by Gold Coast City Council and is recognised and adopted by participating Queensland Councils.
Most concerns about swimming relate to drowning, diving injuries, and sunburn. Less concern is paid to getting ill from contaminated water. Be ahead of the crowd by learning more about recreational water illnesses (RWIs) and how to protect yourself and your family when swimming. Protecting swimmers and their families from RWIs is the reason that chlorine and pH levels should be regularly checked.
What does chlorine do?
Chlorine kills germs in pools—but it takes time to work. Therefore, it’s important to make sure chlorine levels are always at the recommended levels. Learning how to test your pool water will allow you to identify the chlorine residual and demand in pool water. More frequent testing is needed if there is heavy bather load. Listed below are some helpful definitions that will assist you in understanding the terms and tasks of applying chlorine-based sanitisers.
- Free available chlorine (FAC). The portion of the total chlorine remaining in chlorinated water that has not reacted with contaminants. Make sure your test kit can measure FAC; many only test for total chlorine.
- Combined available chlorine (CAC) or chloramines. The portion of chlorine in the water that has reacted and combine with ammonia, nitrogen containing contaminants and other organics such as perspiration, urine and other swimmer waste. Some chloramines can cause eye irritation and chlorine odours.
- Total chlorine. The sum of both the free available and combined chlorines.
- Forms of chlorine commonly used in pools. Sodium hypochlorite (liquid bleach), calcium hypochlorite (granular or tablet), chlorine gas, chlorinated isocyanurates.
- Parts per million (ppm). Measurement that indicates the parts of a substance, such as chlorine, by weight in relation to one million parts by volume of pool water.
- Shock treatment. The practice of adding significant amounts of an oxidising chemical to water to destroy ammonia, nitrogen-containing and organic contaminants. Adding chlorine as a shock treatment can also control algae and bacteria, but read the label to make sure that your product can do this.
Carefully read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions printed on the chlorine treatment package. Test the water regularly – it’s a simple process to use a test kit. You want to maintain water balance by measuring:
- free available chlorine (FAC), which should never fall below 1 ppm
- total chlorine, to ensure that combine available chlorine (CAC) levels are less than 0.2 ppm
- the pH level to keep it between 7.2 and 7.8, indicating that the chlorine is working effectively
- total alkalinity to make sure that pH level stay steady
- calcium hardness to protect pool surfaces from corrosion.
Why does chlorine need to be tested regularly?
All sorts of things can reduce chlorine levels in pool water. Some examples are sunlight, air, debris and material from swimmer’s bodies. That’s why the levels must be routinely measured. However, the time it takes for chlorine to work is also affected by the other part of the disinfection team, pH.
Why is pH important?
Two reasons, first, the germ-killing power of chlorine varies with pH level. As pH goes up, the ability of chlorine to kill germs goes down. Secondly, a swimmer’s body has a pH between 7.2 and 7.8, so if the pool water isn’t kept in this range then swimmers will start to feel irritation of their eyes and skin. Keeping the pH in this range will balance chlorine’s germ-killing power while minimising skin and eye irritation.
Contrary to what most people think, a strong chlorine smell is not an indication of too much chlorine in the pool but actually a red flag that a super dose of chlorine (shock treatment) may be required to correct the problem.
Shock treatment adds a larger than normal amount of oxidising chemicals to pool water. This additional dose destroys organic contaminants and oxidises ammonia and nitrogen compounds to rid the area of irritating chloramine odour and, if chlorine is used for the purpose, to sanitise the water. Many chlorine shock products also provide usage instructions for destroying algae and bacteria, which can be an added benefit. Shocking should be done with the pump and filter operating, but after sundown to avoid the loss of chlorine to the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Superchlorination is another term that is sometimes used for shock treatment with chlorine products when 5 or more ppm of FAC is added. This mode of shock treatment – in addition to oxidising undesired wastes – is used to rid the pool of algae and bacteria that might be concealed in filters and hard-to-sanitise areas. Superchlorination also eradicates chloramine odour. Super chlorination should achieve so-called breakpoint chlorination - when there is enough extra chlorine to consume the irritating chloramines and the test for free available chlorine and total chlorine will give the same value.
This content is also available as the pool water quality fact sheet (DOC, 618.5 KB). The content was initially developed by Gold Coast City Council and is recognised and adopted by participating Queensland Councils.