Like most questions, the answer depends on several factors and decisions. The first factor is deciding on what level of diving competition or training you wish to host. There are several governing bodies such as USA Diving, NFHS (High School), NCAA (Colleges and Universities), and FINA. USA Diving governs club level diving competition while FINA is the international governing body for World Championship and the Olympics. Each have their own diving requirements and swimming pool design guidelines. Quite often, we are asked to design an aquatic facility that will host several of these types of diving competition and training. In these cases, we design to the most stringent standard which is typically FINA.
After you have landed on the level of competition or training you wish to host then you need to decide on the second factor: springboards or platforms or both. Springboard training and competition takes place at 1-meter and 3-meter heights. At elite venues, a minimum of two 1-meter and two 3-meter springboards are installed. Platform diving competition takes place at 10 meters, though 1-, 3-, 5-, and 7.5-meter heights are also typically provided for training and warmups. Occasionally, a ½-meter platform is constructed for divers to practice takeoffs. A facility without a 10-meter platform can host a platform diving event on a 5-meter platform if the teams competing agrees on this height.
The majority of the venues we design at High Schools and municipal/club level type pools opt for 1-meter springboards. Often two 1-meter springboards are installed to provide more throughput during practices and meets. The minimum swimming pool depth requirement for 1-meter springboards is 11’-6” but we recommend adding 6” to this depth for a total depth of 12’ to allow for any construction errors while building the pool. If a 3-meter springboard is also installed the minimum swimming pool depth requirement is 12‘-6” but again we recommend adding 6” to take it to 13’ deep. As mentioned above, when platforms are installed, diving competition typically takes place on either a 5-meter platform or a 10-meter platform. The depth requirements for these are 13’ and 17’ respectively after adding the 6” recommended tolerance.
Now there are many pools across the country that have shallower pools that would like to provide diving to its patrons for purely recreational purposes. We see many pools that have 10’ to 11’ deep diving wells. In this existing condition situation, we would need to review the pool floor contour to see if a diving board can or should be installed. In many cases a lower, more rigid diving board can be installed. These are often ½ meter or ¾ meter diving boards that are very rigid. Think back yard pool diving board but more suitable for commercial applications. Utilizing this type of diving board may allow a pool depth around 10’ deep.
Diving from starting blocks and from the side of the pool also depends on many factors. In general, diving from the side of the pool should be limited to water deeper than 5’. Diving from starting blocks, like diving boards, depends on the height of the starting block above the water. At 30” above water level, which is competition height, we recommend a minimum water depth of 6’ and there are even some states that require 2-meters or 6’-7”. Lower starting block heights may allow for a lesser water depth. In conclusion, in order to determine the appropriate pool depth for your facility, you will need to study all governing bodies and local codes and understand the ramifications of your design decisions.