Swimming Pool as Water Resource

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We have a swimming pool, which is maintained with chlorine and muriatic acid as purifiers. Can we use this water for drinking and cooking? If so, what do we need to do to be sure it is safe? I'd think we have to DE-chlorinate, rather than add chlorine, and I am concerned about the [small] concentration of acid that would be in the water.

I'd appreciate any authoritative answers...thanks.

-- Sonsie Conroy (sconroy@slonet.org), February 10, 1999


Hi Sonsie,

Thought I had something on this question in the weird recesses of my Y2K and Water email inbox, but if it's there, I couldn't find it (what a surprise). Forwarded your question to someone who might know, so an answer may be forthcoming...

In the meantime, clicking the link below will take you to the "Shared Resources" section of the Millennium Salons web site. If you click the "Awareness" link there you'll see a list of links. If you click the "Water" link, you'll find a reference to the "Y2K and Water" web site which may be a good place to look, or to start (although it's geared more toward municipal water and sewage treatment systems).

Shared Resources

(And good question: A swimming pool full of water _would come in kind of handy in a pinch, wouldn't it? Could be a real good resource for an entire neighborhood, I'd imagine... A few poles and tarps would make a pretty good cover/"cistern funnel" in warmer weather... wouldn't take too long to round up enough water to take a lot of baths, wash a lot of clothes, and do a lot of dishes - if not drinking.)

-- Bill (billdale@lakesnet.net), February 10, 1999.

From: "Daniel Cormier" dcormier@parousie.com
To: "Bill Dale" billdale@lakesnet.net
Subject: Using swimming pool
Date: Fri, 19 Feb 1999 00:35:44 -0500


Attached is a posting I found in my in-box archive :

You may also want to visit the following URL : What would you do without water in your city? http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl?msg_id=00069L


From: "Y2K Water"
Subject: Using Swimming Pool Water (as backup for Y2K down South)

From : Roleigh Martin List
Date : January 13, 1999

I have relatives and friends down South who have asked me to post this. The whole page, of which this is from, is good, and covers many other sources of water storage.



To get to the whole page, go to http://www.millennium-ark.net/search.html and search for "swimming pool" and click on item labeled Noah's Ark: Long-Term Water Storage 12/02/98 06:42:44

Storing Water
Updated 24 October 1998


Using Swimming Pool Water

You should always view your pool as "backup" water; keep the water treated; you never know when it will be needed! The maintenance of the free chlorine residual will prevent establishment of any microorganisms. The maintenance level should be kept about 3-5ppm of free chlorine. To monitor this, you'll need a supply of chlorine testers. The problem with using swimming pools is that organics can enter through dirt, sweat, body oils and the inevitable kiddie tinkle. This can form chloramines which are not good to drink. Of course in a survival situation it's OK, but steps can be taken to minimize this.

Partial and complete water changes should be done when possible. Although impossible to make a general rule, change the pool water at least 1-2 times a year and make partial changes after a lot of use. In a sealed drum, water can stay good for years, but we still recommend changing it at least once a year. Now imagine going in and out of your drinking water a hundred times and then drinking it. Don't let clarity fool you, some crystal clear mountain springs have tested out to be laced with cholera.

Keep dry chlorine on hand as it has a much longer shelf life than liquid. (See Water Purification for further information.) Additionally, when the need arises to convert a pool to potable water, it's obviously too late to completely change the water. However, the residual chlorine should be elevated over 5ppm up to ten parts, then allowed to naturally dissipate. This should take a couple of days and ensure any of the more tenacious bacteria is destroyed. If other stored water stocks are not available, remove the necessary pool water and boil it or just treat with chlorine to the normal 5ppm. It is best to err on the side of caution.

When adding solid chlorine, dissolve the granules in a bucket first, then add to the pool water; much better mixing will result. Without power, a clean paddle or oar should be designated as a mixer. Thirty minutes minimum contact time is needed before use, more if temperatures are cold or if mixing is poor.

For smaller amounts of water, if you still have power, boiling is a reliable treatment. However, boiling water is not an efficient use of fuel if it's scarce. Bear in mind, while boiling pool water is fine, boiling alone will not prevent re-infection from airborne contamination. Once water is boiled, a lower chlorine residual of 3ppm free is OK.

Make sure to store an adequate supply of pH balancers and available chlorine testers if you intend on using pool water for consumption. Chlorine loses effectiveness above a pH of 7.5; that's why pH control is important. Bromine chemistry will do the job in the higher pH ranges, but it is not approved for potable water. Use bromine disinfection for washing dishes, laundry, clothes and people.

You might consider a filtration system that removes the chlorine taste. Activated carbon in any form will remove chlorine, but remember, once you remove the free chlorine, your water does not have any protection. It should be consumed immediately following chlorine removal.

In a pinch, highly chlorinated water can be trickled through the ashes from a fire that are suspended in a cloth or coffee filter or even a cut-off pants leg tied at the bottom, that will prevent ash from passing through while allowing the water to pass.

Covering the pool at all times when not in use is a very good idea; try to keep the cover clean and wash the area you put it on when removing it from the pool.


Roleigh Martin http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/ roleigh_martin

-- Bill (billdale@lakesnet.net), February 20, 1999.

Thank you to everyone who've contributed to answering this question. I too, had 'lost' the data in my email achives possibly 5,000 messages back.

I'd strongely recommend that property management companies and government agencies close the swimming pools to public use in the month of December this year and treat the water accordingly as a possible 'back up' for water supply disruptions. An optimum procedure would be to drain the pool, clean and refill, and treat the water with the idea of potability. Close off access to only qualified personnel to monitor and correct the PH and chemical levels.

These actions can be incorporated into the yearly pool maintenance schedule and create goodwill amongst the populace by providing one vital element of survival they need not worry too much about.

Rationed out at one gallon per person per day, with a bring your own container policy ( have stored plastic jugs just in case people don't 'get it' in time ), the pool could last as a water resource for quite a while. Remember, a person can survive for up to three weeks without food, yet ONLY three days without drinking water!

-- Gary Allan Halonen (njarc@ica.net), February 20, 1999.

Thanks, all for the great tips and resources on using pool water. I appreciate the help.

-- Sonsie Conroy (sconroy@slonet.org), February 20, 1999.

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