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Implementing the Model Aquatic Health Code at the Local Level: The Pueblo County Experience

May 23, 2024 | Rebecca Rainey

This Healthy and Safe Swimming Week, learn about one local health department’s journey to adopt the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC). First published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2014, the MAHC is a set of guidelines intended to prevent injury and illness at public aquatic venues, such as pools, hot tubs, and splash pads. It was created in a collaborative effort between public health officials and aquatic sectors and seeks to reduce the health risks of aquatic venues, such as drowning, swimming-related disease outbreaks, and pool chemical injuries. These guidelines are voluntary – jurisdictions can choose to adopt all or parts of the MAHC. However, there are often barriers that exist that prevent the adoption from happening. The most significant barriers preventing MAHC adoption for jurisdictions include costs (hiring and training staff, acquiring tools and technology to fulfilled new code standards), complications or pushback from stakeholders and partners, and the time and effort required to complete adoption and implementation.

Did you know? The Pueblo County Department of Public Health and Environment found that aquatic facilities without surveyed MAHC equipment were 3X more likely to have a closure.

Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment (PDPHE) is one of very few local jurisdictions in the country that has adopted the MAHC in its entirety, with implementation of the new code beginning on January 1, 2022. Representing Pueblo County and the city of Pueblo in southeast Colorado, the PDPHE Recreational Water program oversees 48 total facilities and 75 total water bodies. Having gone through the adoption and implementation process, the team at the PDPHE Recreational Water Program has amassed a wealth of knowledge and lessons learned from the process.

Pueblo Department of Public Health and Environment MAHC Adoption Journey

In 2023, the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) partnered with PDPHE to capture their MAHC adoption and implementation journey, from early catalyst to present day progress and future plans, so that other local health departments can learn and consider undergoing a similar process.

Explore the following suite of resources to learn more:

*New* Pueblo County Implementation Report

Read a detailed account and view a complete timeline of PDPHE’s MAHC adoption and implementation experience at naccho.org/uploads/downloadable-resources/Pueblo-MAHC-Adoption-Report-Final.pdf.

Resource Library

Check out a variety of resources used by PDPHE during their adoption and implementation process in this toolkit: https://bit.ly/PDPHE_Toolkit. Resources include Board of Health Presentations, stakeholder presentations and newsletters, inspection forms, checklists, and more.


View a webinar from July 2023, featuring Autumn Whittaker and Scott Cowan of PDPHE as they reflect on their MAHC adoption journey and share lessons learned.


MAHC Newsletter Header 2024

NACCHO, in partnership with the CDC, is committed to supporting local health departments in their use of the Model Aquatic Health Code through the MAHC Network, a community of MAHC users, subject matter experts, and those interested in the code. Health departments will receive code updates and resources, get to provide input on new resources, and can access webinars featuring the code and its users. NACCHO’s latest MAHC resources include two quick guides available for use by local, state, tribal, and territorial health departments and pool and spa operators to understand CDC’s key recommendations for safe operation of splash pads and floatation tanks.

Visit NACCHO’s MAHC webpage to learn more, join the e-newsletter, and check out the latest MAHC resources.

About Rebecca Rainey

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