In large areas of the U.S. there are many swimming pools filled with nice sparkling clean water. At least it looks clean, but is it safe to drink?
Fema says no. In their report on The Role of Transportation in Campus Emergency Planning, prepared by Frannie Edwards and Dan Goodrich, given at the FEMA Higher Education Conference, Emmitsburg, Maryland, June 8, 2010, they stated the following.
“Swimming pool water should never be used for drinking, although it may be used for sanitation, bathing and laundry if necessary”.
In their pamphlets on safe sources of drinking water, Fema lists the followings as unsafe sources.
- Radiators Hot water boilers (home heating systems).
- Water from the toilet bowl or flush tank.
- Waterbeds. Fungicides added to the water or chemicals in the vinyl may make water unsafe to use.
- Swimming pools and spas. Chemicals used to kill germs are too concentrated for safe drinking but can be used for personal hygiene, cleaning and related uses.
Why isn’t it safe, you swim in it and probably swallow a bit every now and then? Well, there are several problems to overcome. First, once the power is off, the pumps will stop, decreasing the filtration and movement of water. Sunlight causes chlorine to breakdown so bacteria can start to grow. Depending on the time of year, and temperature, the pool water will begin to deteriorate and start to grow algae after a few days without filtration or treatment. This deterioration can be slowed down if the pool is immediately covered to protect it from sunlight.
“Thomas Lachocki, the CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation, says that in order to be properly chlorinated, pools should contain 1-4 parts per million of chlorine and pH levels should be within 7.2–7.8.”
You can go to almost any big box store and go into the pool chemical aisle and buy test stripes. All of these have chlorine and pH tests. “In five seconds, you can do a quick analysis yourself and have an idea of what the various levels are,” he says.
But if you don’t have the time to do your own testing, look for clear water. “You should always be able to see the bottom of the pool clearly. Usually if the water is cloudy, something with the filter or chemicals isn’t right,” says Lachocki. ”Clear water doesn’t mean everything is alright, but cloudy water is an absolute positive sign that something is not right.”
However, that is not the most important reason for not drinking pool water, while the chlorine breaks down in sunlight; many of the stabilizers, algacides, pH balancers, etc do not. You have no idea what type of chemical buildup you may have in a pool, especially if it is not your own.
A third issue is a report prepared after a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealing that 58 percent of public swimming pools contained E. coli bacteria. Be very careful of public pools.
If I owned a pool, I would learn what type of chemical were used to maintain it and what type of problems they would cause. In case of an emergency, I would cover the pool immediately for several reasons. This would help to slow down the breakdown of the chlorine, but it would also help to keep the water clean and depending on the season, slow down the growth of mosquitoes.
As much as possible I would treat the pool water the same as gray water. It would be used for gardening and sanitation. If it becomes necessary to drink it, I would treat it as any other untreated water source. If possible, I would run it through a good filter like the Berkey. Boiling may not remove the various chemicals that have built up in the water.
Remember, that unless the pool is your own, you will not know what someone else may have put in their pool besides chlorine.