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Thread: Pool water safe to drink in emergencies?

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    Pool water safe to drink in emergencies?

    I wasn't sure where would be best to post this question, so I guessed on Chemistry 101.

    Is pool water safe to drink in emergencies?

    We are putting together a neighborhood emergency preparedness council and this question was posed. We live in the Bay Area in California and there is a very real possibility of a major earthquake which would necessitate being self-sufficient for several weeks at least. At least, that is the lesson we came away with after watching Katrina several years ago.

    The plan would be to only utilize pool water after other sources of water were exhasuted: bottled water, hot water tank, toilet tank, etc.

    There are many sources on the Internet and even local county health agencies which advise that pool water is not safe to drink in emergencies. But I'm not too sure about this. Assuming that one has the proper amount of FC, there would be no worries about ingesting bacteria or algae. And pool water would seem to have the advantage of not having to be treated with chlorine, like water from streams or ponds would have to be.

    The only chemical in pool water that I am not sure about would be CYA, but reading the MSDA's lead me to conclude that CYA is not particularly hazardous as long as one did not consume vast amounts of CYA for an entire lifetime.

    Of course, in a true acute emergency where somebody was about to literally die of thirst, one would not hesitate to administer any sort of moisture, no matter how disgusting.

    Titaniium
    24,000 gallon inground freeform pool/spa circa 1983 (113 ft perimeter, 625 sq ft) with 350 gallon attached spill-over spa
    2007 2 HP, three-phase Hayward TriStar pump which is powered by an Ikeric VS-200 variable speed drive system
    1983 Laars XE Pool/Spa Heater Type ES 400,000 BTU, 1998 Hayward Super Star-Clear C-4000 cartridge filter (400 sq ft, 4 separate cartridges)
    1998 Polaris 380 pressure-side cleaner w/ 3/4 HP booster pump
    One skimmer :( and one PoolSkim :), One Supervision Galaxy LED pool lamp, Second story solar panels
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  2. Back To Top    #2

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    The main concern is the buildup of non-volatile organics that are disinfection by-products as well as chlorates and other by-products. However, since these are only possible carcinogens over long-term exposure, I think for emergencies, this is fine.

    If you were to drink a lot of water, then you should remember that pool water is salty, usually at least 500 ppm and often over 1000 ppm and of course SWG pools are around 3000 ppm salt. One quart of 3000 ppm salty pool water is 2.8 grams salt (sodium chloride; actually, 1.7 grams chloride and if all sodium and not calcium, 1.1 grams sodium) so go figure accordingly. 3.4 grams of chloride and 2.4 grams of sodium is the daily recommended amount and note that the salt values I've quoted are tests that measure chloride, not sodium, so some isn't going to be sodium but calcium instead (recommended daily calcium is 1 gram per day).

    Again, for short-term exposure over a few days I don't see a problem.

    Richard
    16,000 gallon outdoor in-ground 16'x32' plaster pool; Pentair Intelliflo VF pump; Pentair IntelliTouch i9+3s control system; Jandy CL-340 square foot cartridge filter
    12 Fafco solar panels; Purex Triton PowerMax 250 natural gas heater (200,000 BTU/hr output); automatic electric pool safety cover; 4-wheel pressure-side "The Pool Cleaner"

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    Common pool chemistry doesn't pose any serious problems for drinking (though not something you should do routinely in normal conditions). People are expected to swallow small amounts of water when swimming, so truly dangerous chemicals are not normally used in pools. CYA levels should be well below problem levels for people. Pets are more sensitive to CYA then people and typical CYA levels are around the level of barely detectable symptoms for pets drinking exclusively pool water. Neither TA or CH pose any risks. Normal FC levels shouldn't be an issue, though shock levels of FC or higher FC levels used with high CYA might pose some minor issues.

    More significantly, I would expect that in a serious emergency you would lose power, the pool would not be getting circulated/filtered, and adding chlorine regularly would be impractical. After only a day or two of that the pool water would need to be treated as an unclean water source that requires sterilization. If you were really at risk of dying of thirst then by all means drink the pool water, but short of that I would look for other alternatives or treat the pool water with camping style water sterilization approaches (boiling, chlorine, etc).
    19K gal, vinyl, 1/2 HP WhisperFlo pump, 200 sqft cartridge filter, AutoPilot Digital SWG, Dolphin Dynamic cleaning robot
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    Thanks for the thoughts and comments.

    chem geek - Thanks for the reminder about some pools being salt pools at around 3000 ppm. Also for reminding me that even non-salt water pools have some salt.

    Again, for short-term exposure over a few days I don't see a problem.
    I fear that the pool could conceivably be the only source of relatively clean drinking water for more than a few days. I hope I am wrong, but the need for clean drinking water after the coming earthquake could conceivably last for several weeks.


    JasonLion .

    treat the pool water with camping style water sterilization approaches (boiling, chlorine, etc).
    This would be a good idea. It also might be a better use of what is probably a limited amount of chlorine at home. The liquid chlorine at home would go much farther just treating the relatively small amounts of drinkning water needed, as compared to using the liquid chlorine to treat the tens of thousands of gallons in the swimming pool to keep the swimming pool sanitary.


    I would expect that in a serious emergency you would lose power, the pool would not be getting circulated/filtered...
    I'm not sure this would be that big of a problem. I think one would get more than adequate circulation by setting some of the children loose with canoe paddles (or something similar) to daily stir up the water. It would go without saying that people or pets would not be allowed in the pool during the duration of the emergency in order to better preserve the pool water as a relatively safe source of drinking water.

    Of course you are correct that the pool would not be filtered during the emergency due to the probably lack of electrical power. I plan to post and summarize my observations soon, but suffice it to say that my recent experiences have led me to the conclusion, at least for my pools particular circumstances, that filtration (and even circulation) is distinctly secondary to the importance of maintaining the proper level of FC for clear pool water.


    Let's cut to the chase. Would anyone here at TFP hesitate to utilize swiming pool water in an extended (multiple week) regional emergency?*

    Titanium


    *This is assuming one maintains their own pool chemistry. I might hesitate quite a bit more in using swimming pool water that had been maintained by a pool service. Not that the pool service would necessarily have been doing a bad job - just that you would not know for sure.
    24,000 gallon inground freeform pool/spa circa 1983 (113 ft perimeter, 625 sq ft) with 350 gallon attached spill-over spa
    2007 2 HP, three-phase Hayward TriStar pump which is powered by an Ikeric VS-200 variable speed drive system
    1983 Laars XE Pool/Spa Heater Type ES 400,000 BTU, 1998 Hayward Super Star-Clear C-4000 cartridge filter (400 sq ft, 4 separate cartridges)
    1998 Polaris 380 pressure-side cleaner w/ 3/4 HP booster pump
    One skimmer :( and one PoolSkim :), One Supervision Galaxy LED pool lamp, Second story solar panels
    Hayward/GoldLine AquaLogic PS4 (replaced 1983 vintage dual circuit Intermatic timer)

  5. Back To Top    #5
    I cannot comment long term exposure but I believe the health department guidelines for pool water sanitation take in to the account that swimmers do shallow some QTY of water while swimming and also have eyes and ears exposed. Therefore water quality should be acceptable for random / emergency exposure. On the other hand we have some swimming pools here that utilize seawater. Not dangerous but will not be a sutable fresh water source... and still approved by health department.

    I guess installing a simple carbon filter and pumping water thru it before drinking will remove most organic and chemical contaminations and will make water "more" drinking friendly..
    =================

  6. Back To Top    #6
    I would not hesitate to drink pool water in a life or death situation (I would even prefer that to the toilet tank... I have seen some pretty icky toilet tanks!!) However, my DH would laugh at this statement because I am a 'water snob'... I prefer my drinking water to be absolutely tasteless!
    Maybe a pitcher-type filter like Brita could serve to remove some of the chlorine and things from pool water before drinking.

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    Since you are in the planning stage, I for one would not "plan" to use the pool as a potable source. Perhaps an earthquake is different, but right after Hurricane Andrew in Miami there was not a pool in sight where you could see the bottom. You'd be afraid to touch the water yet alone drink from it. Stockpile a weeks worth of water, it's cheap and use the pool water for sanitation purposes.

    Gary
    Gary
    21k gal SW, IG Gunite PebbleSheen, 1HP Jandy, Jandy 340 filter, Polaris 280, 17' fiberglass slide w/ 2HP pump.

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    crabboy,

    What about the hurricane caused the pool water to turn bad?

    I am assuming that an earthquake will not turn pool water bad like your experience with Hurrican Andrew.

    Titanium
    24,000 gallon inground freeform pool/spa circa 1983 (113 ft perimeter, 625 sq ft) with 350 gallon attached spill-over spa
    2007 2 HP, three-phase Hayward TriStar pump which is powered by an Ikeric VS-200 variable speed drive system
    1983 Laars XE Pool/Spa Heater Type ES 400,000 BTU, 1998 Hayward Super Star-Clear C-4000 cartridge filter (400 sq ft, 4 separate cartridges)
    1998 Polaris 380 pressure-side cleaner w/ 3/4 HP booster pump
    One skimmer :( and one PoolSkim :), One Supervision Galaxy LED pool lamp, Second story solar panels
    Hayward/GoldLine AquaLogic PS4 (replaced 1983 vintage dual circuit Intermatic timer)

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    I'd say it was a combination of debris being blown into the pool, the pools overflowing and picking up contaminants and the lack of electricity to filter and circulate the water.
    Gary
    21k gal SW, IG Gunite PebbleSheen, 1HP Jandy, Jandy 340 filter, Polaris 280, 17' fiberglass slide w/ 2HP pump.

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    This is an amazing subject, I guess one I have never even given a moments thought, we live to close to the water, and have tons of streams and rivers nearby. I am thinking you could use a pool in that manner, provided you had some plans in place, boiling, those camping pills one can get to make water drinkable, filter systems and the like. I would think a worthwhile effort to have a "Emergency Kit" containing some of these and stored in a safe dry place would only be added insurance.

    There must a company out there that has this sort of thing?

    Rik

  11. Back To Top    #11
    Guest
    we have a portable generator with two hot pans that get to boiling temps, so we could just use that if ever needed,

    another option is using your propane or natural gas grill to boil water, even charcoal.

  12. Back To Top    #12
    Guest
    I think the biggest problem that everyone is overlooking is that in a natural disaster the pool water will most likely become contaminated with groundwater and possibly sewage since most pools are not protected from the elements! Don't forget that your pool is NOT a closed system and, because of the hydrostatic pressure relief valve, it is entirely possible for ground water to enter the pool at any time, not to mention any runoff or debris that gets blown or washed into the pool! This alone would be enough to make the water unpotable. Also, as has been mentioned, electric service would most likely be interrupted so the water would quickly become stagnent.

    I do not think that you could consider pool water a potable water source in such an emergency but it might be a water source of last resort if other sanitizing methods are applied to it. I personally would NOT chance it and I have gone through many hurricaines in my life and have been without electricity and water for periods as long as a few weeks!

  13. Back To Top    #13
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by waterbear
    I think the biggest problem that everyone is overlooking is that in a natural disaster the pool water will most likely become contaminated with groundwater and possibly sewage since most pools are not protected from the elements! Don't forget that your pool is NOT a closed system and, because of the hydrostatic pressure relief valve, it is entirely possible for ground water to enter the pool at any time, not to mention any runoff or debris that gets blown or washed into the pool! This alone would be enough to make the water unpotable. Also, as has been mentioned, electric service would most likely be interrupted so the water would quickly become stagnent.

    I do not think that you could consider pool water a potable water source in such an emergency but it might be a water source of last resort if other sanitizing methods are applied to it. I personally would NOT chance it and I have gone through many hurricaines in my life and have been without electricity and water for periods as long as a few weeks!
    last month we had a generator port put on the electrical part of the pool, so the pump will filter and add clorine and circulate water as if nothing was wrong, we will even have the lights in the pool able to work in any event we loose power. plus i have no main drain so no hydro static valve for me.

    I know what you mean by hurricanes, when isable blew through here, we were with out power for 18 days, had no hot water a/c, clean dishes or clothes (had to travel inland to find an open dry cleaner) and had to boil water on the grill from our well pump as the city water was shut down for 6 days to repair a damaged water main. we survived, but i think my treated BOILED pool water is better than well water that has been sitting in the ground for god knows how long.

    IF THE POOL WATER IS UNSAFE TO DRINK, WHY SHOULD WE SWIM IN IT. well you could argue that the ocean is the same way, but that is because of the salt.

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    waterbear,

    Thanks for the reply.

    I think the biggest problem that everyone is overlooking is that in a natural disaster the pool water will most likely become contaminated with groundwater and possibly sewage since most pools are not protected from the elements!
    I think it depends on the type of natural disaster that occurs. And this is something that I had not even considered when I first posed the original question.

    I can see why hurricanes would pose it big problem for the potability of pool water, and I certainly would not argue with those who would not view pool water as a possible source of drinking water.

    But we don't get too many hurricanes where I live. In fact, natural disasers in general are fairly rare where we live. But when they do happen, they tend to be major. Mainly our problem are the infrequent major earthquakes which only seem to happen every 100-150 years, but since the last one was in 1906, we seem to be due for a big one.

    And I don't see why an earthquake would cause my pool to automatically become unpotable. Sure, the level may have dropped a little bit since some of the water has undoubtedly sloshed out over the edges due to the extreme ground motion. As long as I have the proper FC amount, along with the children and womenfolk circulating the water with canoe paddles, it would seem that the water would be safe to drink. At least assuming that I am using BBB. And assuming that a CYA of between 50 and 100 ppm is not harmful if consumed for several weeks.

    Now a completely separate question of whether pool water is safe to drink in an emergency (assuming the use of BBB and a proper FC level and proper circulation and that the natural disaster was not a hurricane), is whether maintaining the proper FC level in a pool for purposes of keeping the pool water potable is the best use of one's [assumed limited] stock of liquid chlorine...

    Titanium
    24,000 gallon inground freeform pool/spa circa 1983 (113 ft perimeter, 625 sq ft) with 350 gallon attached spill-over spa
    2007 2 HP, three-phase Hayward TriStar pump which is powered by an Ikeric VS-200 variable speed drive system
    1983 Laars XE Pool/Spa Heater Type ES 400,000 BTU, 1998 Hayward Super Star-Clear C-4000 cartridge filter (400 sq ft, 4 separate cartridges)
    1998 Polaris 380 pressure-side cleaner w/ 3/4 HP booster pump
    One skimmer :( and one PoolSkim :), One Supervision Galaxy LED pool lamp, Second story solar panels
    Hayward/GoldLine AquaLogic PS4 (replaced 1983 vintage dual circuit Intermatic timer)

  15. Back To Top    #15
    After the 2004 Florida hurricanes we used pool water for bathing but not for drinking. I think we must have stockpiled bottled water in advance for drinking. Now we have a generator.
    Sue

    18' round Sharkline Matrix AGP / 8600 Gal. / sand filter / Aqua Trol SWG
    Pool owner since 2001. Thanks to TFP for helping me convert off Baquacil after six years!

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    Interesting topic. Just so happen I was reading one of my books about the attack on Pearl Harbor. When the Arizona sank it sat on the main water supply to Ford Island. The troops on the Island used the swimming pool for drinking water for a short period of time. They even posted gaurds to protect it. Cool bit of history.
    20k Gunite/Prism Blue-Pebblesheen, Pentair Tagelus TA-100D Sand Filter, Heliocol Solar Water Heater, 2 bubblers and 2 waterfalls installed 2007, 3hp IntelliFlo VS Pump 011018 installed 2013, Aquabot Turbo T4 RC and Stenner 45MHP10 w/The Liquidator container installed 2012.
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  17. Back To Top    #17

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    Re: Pool water safe to drink in emergencies?

    I went to a disaster preparedness seminar recently and they recommended using water from the hot water heater tank as the first source of water to drink if you do not have any bottles/jugs of water. They do not recommend drinking the pool water. Of course, if there is no other source of water available, it's better than nothing, but keep in mind what was said about the hot water heater -- that's 50 or so gallons of water that can be used, assuming the tank is still intact.
    16,000 gallon outdoor in-ground 16'x32' plaster pool; Pentair Intelliflo VF pump; Pentair IntelliTouch i9+3s control system; Jandy CL-340 square foot cartridge filter
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  18. Back To Top    #18

    Re: Pool water safe to drink in emergencies?

    How much water do you need for 2 or 3 weeks? 2 gallons per person per day? times 2 or 3 weeks? So 30 or 40 gallons per person for 3 weeks. You will need more for other uses, but that does not have to be as clean as drinking water.

    So, right after an earthquake, when you know the power is off and *IF* you figure the water lines are damaged, go outside and get enough water out of the pool to fill each bathtub and many bottles and buckets. Look for 40 gallons per person and then use what is left in the pool for other uses -- like washing dishes, flushing toilets, fighting fires, watering plants. That other use water can be stored in big trash bags, inside boxes or trash cans.

    Then keep your chlorine to use to keep that drinking water safe plus the water for washing. I'd guess that washing will take maybe 1 gallon per day per person if you are not careful with it. So, another 20 gallons per person wash water for 3 weeks. More for babies and elderly, perhaps.

    So you'd look to store 60 gallons pp kept potable or able to boil to sanitize. The rest is for non-potable needs. So, let it go, no chlorine and canoe paddles in the pool. I know FEMA gets a bad rep but they will be there with water and ice and food in a week or so, when they get the roads cleared.

    More importantly, stock up on Mosquito Dunks to toss in the pool to keep those blood suckers from breeding.
    23,000 gallon in ground pool with rock waterfall and spillover spa, Aqualink control system, Polaris 380 cleaner, Purex Triton Clean&Clear Plus cartridge filter. Located in The Woodlands, Texas.

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  19. Back To Top    #19

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    Re: Pool water safe to drink in emergencies?

    I've often thought of using pool water in emergency situations. We have horses, chickens, etc. that would still need water too. I always keep extra bleach on hand to sanitize the water in case of an emergency. Worst case, if you have wood, can build a fire and boil at least you would have water to drink.
    10,000 gallons Splash Pool; cartridge filter; vinyl; AG; pump Sta-Rite 1 HP

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    Re: Pool water safe to drink in emergencies?

    I would say that in the case of an earthquake there is a distinct possiblity that the pool would no longer be intact to hold water... However assuming that it were, I'd expect that it would at the least be a lower sanitation effort required source of water...

    Back when we were worrying about Y2K preparedness, I picked up a hand pumped water filter that claimed to be handle just about any sort of contaminants, I think it was from MSR, and used a ceramic cartridge type filter - One of the things that was emphasized in the instructions was that the filter life was largely dependent on the cleanliness of the source water. I would expect that (as mentioned previously) hot water tanks and other "in house" sources would be the cleanest, and should be used first, but that the pool would probably be the next cleanest available source, probably better than any other "wild" source...

    I would also hope that people would realize the need to sanitize water depends quite a bit on the application... Human drinking needs a good bit, animals (including pets) are probably far more tolerant of marginal water...(Note how many dogs prefer to drink from the toilet bowl...) Ditto washing and toilet flushing, etc...

    It would be worth looking at other water conservation tricks as well - one subtle one when washing dishes is to get a garden sprayer (the pump up tank style used for fertilizers, etc.) and fill it with hot water and maybe a touch of bleach - set it to a fine spray and rinse the dishes by "misting" them and let them air dry... Uses a tiny fraction of the water that rinsing in a bucket does, and it's more sanitary as well...

    Gooserider
    Free-form Inground gunnite pool, Estimated 16-17K gallons. New Pentair TR60 ClearPro 24" sand filter and Compupool CPSC-48 SWG, Hayward SP1607X10 Pump w/ 1HP motor, 1.5" plumbing, Polaris Pressure cleaner w/ booster pump. pool is more than 25 yrs old, less than 35. Not painted, deteriorating tile surround. I am paraplegic, get in/out of pool w/ S.R. SMITH PAL portable pool lift (significantly modified)

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