General Information

Group of children having fun together at a water park

Health jurisdictions and the aquatics sector can use the MAHC to make swimming and other water activities safer and healthier.

CDC’s MAHC is a set of guidelines to prevent injury and illness at public (non-backyard) aquatic venues, such as pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds. These guidelines bring together the latest science and best practices to help jurisdictions save time and resources when they develop and update pool codes. These codes outline the specific rules that designers, builders, and managers of public aquatic venues must follow to maximize the fun and the health benefits of water-based activities.

Pool codes address such topics as how aquatic facilities are built and managed, how chlorine levels in the water are tested, and how lifeguards are trained and certified.

Using the MAHC can reduce health risks

The primary objective of the MAHC is to prevent injuries and illnesses at public pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds, including:

Looking for educational materials about the MAHC? Visit the Communication Resources page to find fact sheets and infographics.

  • Drowning. Drowning is a leading cause of unintentional injury–related death in children ages 1–14 years. Non-fatal drowning can cause brain damage resulting in learning disabilities or even permanent loss of basic functioning.
  • Pool chemical injuries. Pool chemical injuries account for 3,000–5,000 emergency department visits each year. At least one third of the patients are less than 18 years old.
  • Disease outbreaks linked to swimming. Over 200 disease outbreaks linked to pools, hot tubs, and water playgrounds occurred during 2015–2019. The leading cause of these outbreaks is Cryptosporidium. This parasite is very chlorine tolerant and can cause outbreaks that make thousands sick.
  • Public pool and hot tub/spa closings because of public health hazards. 1 out of 8 public pool and 1 out of 7 public hot tub/spa inspections result in immediate closure because of at least one violation representing a serious threat to public health.

Is the MAHC a federal law?

The MAHC applies to public aquatic venues, which can be operated by:

  • Hotels and motels
  • Apartment complexes
  • Homeowners’ associations
  • Membership clubs (for example, gyms)
  • Schools
  • Waterparks
  • City or county governments

The MAHC is not a federal law. The MAHC is a CDC guidance document and only becomes law if voluntarily adopted by a U.S. jurisdiction. This means U.S. jurisdictions can

  • Choose whether to adopt it
  • Choose to adopt all or only parts
  • Modify part or all of it to fit their needs
  • Use it as a reference

Aquatics sector leaders can also voluntarily use the MAHC to make swimming and other water activities safer and healthier, even if the jurisdiction has not yet adopted the MAHC.

How does the MAHC get updated?

CDC works with the Council for the Model Aquatic Health Code (CMAHC)external icon to ensure the Model Aquatic Health Code stays current. The CMAHC collects, assesses, and relays national input on needed MAHC revisions back to CDC for final consideration every 3 years.

Why was the MAHC created?

Boy with friends having fun at a water park

Most health departments and related agencies must develop programs to help ensure swimmers and aquatics staff stay safe and healthy. Previously, agencies had to do their own research to develop or update pool codes because no single science-based reference existed at the federal level. This means pool codes can greatly vary across the United States.

CDC created MAHC at the request of health departments, the aquatics sector, and researchers to provide scientifically based guidelines at the national level. The first edition of the MAHC was released in 2014 and has helped many U.S. jurisdictions save the time and resources previously used developing and updating their codes themselves.

For technical questions about the MAHC, please contact us at MAHC@cdc.gov.

Page last reviewed: June 16, 2021