Can you drink pool water? The FDA says you can drink pool water as long as the chlorine levels are 4 parts per million or less. In order to be the safest, you should also test the water before drinking it and filter it or boil it for one minute to kill bacteria.
Let’s go ahead and get it out of the way from the start – no, ideally, you really should not be drinking pool water. At all. Of all the potential water sources out there, pool water is not exactly great.
Well, can you drink pool water?
Yes, but you know it can’t be as simple as that. No, you really shouldn’t be drinking pool water, but if you absolutely must do so in a pinch, there are ways that you can attempt to do so in a way that is safe.
Make sure you take the precautions we list below before you decide if you should be drinking pool water.
Before we get to those methods, however, let’s give a quick rundown as to why, extraordinary circumstances aside, you really shouldn’t be drinking pool water.
For one thing, even the best-filtered pool water is still likely to be a lot filthier than water that we would tend to consider of drinking quality today. After all, this is the water in which you and your friends go swimming after stripping down to your swimsuits – that’s hardly a recipe for clean drinking water.
Then there’s the fact that when we do get around to cleaning our pools, we do so with a little thing called chlorine – not exactly the kind of thing you want to be gulping down. Sure, an accidental mouthful or two while swimming won’t hurt you, but drinking it regularly or in mass quantities, is a great way to get sick, and potentially seriously so if you keep it up.
With that being said, there are roughly 10,000 gallons of water in the average above ground pool and 20,000 gallons of water in an in-ground pool. That’s a lot of water to simply write off, especially if you consider that 10% of U.S. households have a pool.
This 10% average takes the entire U.S. into account. There are some areas where pools simply aren’t commonplace and there are others where pools can be seen behind nearly every home. Keep this in mind if you’re going to make swimming pools part of your plan to access water in an emergency.
That’s why, if you are going to make the leap to trying to drink pool water, you’re going to need to take some steps to make sure it’s safe. This also underscores the point that drinking pool water should only be undertaken in an emergency.
Pools are typically maintained at chlorine levels of 3-5 parts per million (ppm). A safe chlorine level for drinking is right around 4 ppm. This means that pools are pretty close to being at a safe level for drinking even if they’re maintained on the high side.
The first thing that you’re going to want to do is check those chlorine levels. These are some of the biggest potential health risks in drinking pool water, and so this is something you’ll want to see addressed from the get-go before you start guzzling that water supply, emergency or otherwise.
This means that you’re going to want to make sure that the chlorine levels are at “safer” levels before drinking. While you shouldn’t be drinking chlorine at all, if you check your filter and find the levels to be at the severe lowest side, that’s a sign that your pool water is one step closer to being okay to drink in an emergency.
If you need to test a pool that isn’t yours, you can use your own pool testing kit or you can search the area for one. There will probably be one in a shed or poolhouse closeby if the pool is well maintained. If the pool is overgrown with algae and not well-maintained, you can pretty much assume that the chlorine levels are low enough that you only need to worry about the cleanliness of the water itself.
Speaking of your water filter, that’s another thing you’ll want to check when it comes to determining whether or not your pool water is ready to drink in an emergency. While pool water is not, as stated, typically a bastion of clean drinking water, in an emergency, what’s more important is simply making sure that it’s “clean enough” to avoid bacterial infection or other problems when drinking.
You’ll thus want to do everything in your power to ensure that your pool’s water filters are in good condition before considering the water supply “safe” to drink.
One of the best ways to combat that aforementioned bacteria problem is, of course, by boiling water before you drink it. If you have the means available to do this, you should definitely take advantage of that so as to reduce the likelihood that you are drinking water that is contaminated.
Finally, you’ll want to avoid any water that’s green with algae and instead opt for water that is clean. Unfortunately, it’s chlorine that often does that cleaning, so you’ll need to find a very delicate balance between pool water that’s chlorine-free enough to be safe to drink but algae-free enough as well.
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