All it takes is the right natural disaster or survival situation to make it incredibly difficult to obtain fresh water. Water treatment plants can go down, water mains can burst, or you could simply have to leave your home as soon as possible.
Some people with pools might think that they have a clean supply of treated water right in their backyard, but should you really drink pool water if there’s an emergency?
No, you should not drink pool water in case of an emergency. The chemicals used in pools are harmful to humans and even with purification, can remain toxic to consume.
You should only use pool water for dishes and cleaning tasks if you need to conserve water.
If you’re looking to rely on your swimming pool for a water source when SHTF then keep reading on to see if there is any feasible way to use it in survival situations.
What Could Be In Your Pool Water?
There are a myriad of chemicals in swimming pool water that, while making it safe for swimming, deem it unfit for consumption.
This is mainly due to the nature of how the chemicals within affect us, as they don’t generally pass through, but become cumulative.
Additionally, if the chemical formula within the pool were unbalanced then it might have a stronger concentration of one chemical over the other. It is with these biological dangers that drinking pool water is ill-advised.
You’d be surprised at what can be lurking in your swimming pool aside from the chemicals used to keep it clean. Use this list of potential chemicals and other things to determine whether you can make it safe for drinking.
Chlorine can be found in two forms, a solid and a liquid. Common compounds used in pool water include calcium hypochlorite and sodium hypochlorite.
In the pool, it becomes hypochlorous acid which is responsible for destroying any pathogens. Bromide is much the same as Chlorine and is used as an alternative.
Ammonia is a known skin and internal skin irritant. It is mainly the result of decaying leaves, human waste (urine and perspiration), and any fertilizers that may be in your yard.
Commonly found as a stabilizing agent used with sanitation products.
This conditioner helps the hypochlorous acid delay the degradation process caused by UV lighting. It can be dangerous to the human body if consumed in large quantities.
Chloramines are the result of hypochlorous acid and ammonia mixing. There is a distinct chemical smell that everyone associates with the local community pool.
Human Skin Cells
If you’re looking to get down and dirty with other people then look no further than a swimming pool.
Every time someone gets into one they are shedding hair, skin cells, and dirt. Multiply this by numerous families using a pool and your skin will be absorbing some pretty nasty contaminants.
Swimming pools can be considered a soup of bacteria if they aren’t meticulously taken care of. This means there is a potential for bacterial contamination that can make you very sick.
Most pools will look just fine to swim in since you won’t start to see any growth until algae forms, but harmful pathogens can lurk within long before you see that happening.
Animal and Human Waste
We all knew that one kid who peed in the community swimming pool, but did we know all of the others who got away with it?
Fecal matter or urine isn’t just limited to humans, however, as birds and other animals frequently defecate into open pools.
Any form of standing water will begin to produce algae as it’s exposed to sunlight and air. In a swimming pool, this is generally caused by extended periods without any maintenance.
Once the algae sets in and some more time have passed, the insects will start to lay their eggs.
This can be troubling throughout the summer months as mosquitos, black flies, and other insects will hatch, nature, and start to lay their eggs.
Drinking swimming pool water that has fallen tree braces, leaves, plastics, or any other particulate matter can cause issues inside as these items pass through your body.
Not only are they choking hazards but having them break down in your body can leach harmful chemicals.
How to Purify Swimming Pool Water
While not ideal nor recommended, there are a few methods one can try to attempt to turn swimming pool water into potable liquid.
Be sure to use high-quality equipment if you’re going to attempt this as any shortcuts can lead to potential toxicity.
Using something like a LifeStraw is one of the best ways to purify water from natural sources.
While they may be powerful against pathogens and bacteria, using water filters to try and filter out all of the chemical contaminants will prove fruitless as that’s not what they were designed to do.
It’s best to stay away from using a membrane filter to purify swimming pool water as even though it might filter out the initial bad stuff, it will stay within the membrane itself and potentially contaminate any subsequent water filtering.
Probably the best method of water purification out there is distilling which removes all contaminants by separating them from the water.
Creating your own still will require a way to boil the water and a second container to catch the water vapor as it condenses again.
The bad stuff remains in the original container and the good water is in the new container.
You can apply the same concept as a still but use nature instead. Over time, chlorine naturally evaporates leaving nothing behind.
Using this method while also creating a solar still can help increase your chances of not ingesting tainted water.
Avoid drinking swimming pool water if you can, regardless of the situation. There is simply too much chemistry going on that you’re bound to be ingesting something bad for you in any mouthful.
Since most survival situations aren’t ideal and sometimes these rules need to be bent, ensure that you only use distillation if you’re going to attempt to drink pool water.
It eliminates all contaminants and chemicals that even the smallest of filters can’t stop from passing through.
Frequently Asked Questions
Still, have some questions? Here are what people are asking about whether or not they can drink swimming pool water.
No, using additional chemicals to try and purify pool water will only cause unknown chemical reactions and potentially be more harmful.
While a Lifestraw is a great tool for sipping water out of a puddle, the company advises that you don’t use it for filtering swimming pool water.
Since you’re essentially ingesting chlorine, common symptoms after drinking pool water include digestive distress, nausea, coughing, and vomiting.
Perrin is an adventure guide and naturalist currently living a nomadic life in the Canadian wilderness. His education and expertise is in wilderness survival and wildlife tracking. He enjoys teaching people about the outdoors and has managed large groups on expeditions.
With several accredited certifications, including being a wilderness first responder and a leave no trace expert, Perrin believes it is important for all of us to reconnect with the natural world.