A while back I posted an Instant Survival Tip stating that both the owner of a pool company, who would know exactly what goes into the chemicals, and a chemist had told me it was safe to drink pool water. Well, there were quite a few questions and comments on the topic that I wanted to do more research.
Believe it or not, I had a tough time finding experts who could answer my questions, including people with titles like, “Water Safety Expert”! Even National Terror Alert.com gave a confusing answer:
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 free chlorine. 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.
Robin Bain from the City of Peoria (Arizona) water department provided some good insight into the safety of pool water for drinking. She informed me that when water leaves the treatment plant, it contains between 1 and 1.5 mg chlorine residual per liter. The chlorine residual is in a form that is able to continue disinfecting the water as it passes through the pipes on its’ journey to your home. Chlorine is necessary to kill any type of pathogens that may exist in the pipes.
She went on with her explanation, stating that chlorine dissipates very quickly in the sunlight and is consumed by its’ reaction with the air and sunlight. Additional chlorine is added to pool water to keep algae away as well as sanitizing the water from any germs or other yucky things tracked in by people. She informed me that the chlorine isn’t the problem. The problem is the stabilizer added to pool chlorine. This stabilizer keeps the chlorine from evaporating as quickly, but the stabilizer never evaporates. The only way to reduce the amount of stabilizer in your pool water is to drain the pool, partially or completely, and refill with fresh water.
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Alan Martindale, Water Quality Supervisor for the City of Mesa (Arizona), says there are four very important reasons to not consume swimming pool water, other than a gulp or two by accident when splashed in the face by your toddler.
- High total dissolved solids (mineral content such as chlorides, sulfates, calcium and magnesium) can cause a laxative effect, not a good problem to have in an emergency!
- Treatment chemicals are not safe for long term ingestion. Pool chlorine is often stabilized with cyanuric acid, a derivative of cyanide.
- Chlorine resistant critters such as Giardia and Crypto (typically from pets)
- Portability, many emergencies could require mobility, can’t move pool water very easily
Additionally, a power outage will shut down your pool’s pump and filtration system, leading to the growth of algae and other microbes within a few short days.
So what is pool water good for, besides swimming? It’s useful for bathing, flushing toilets, and perhaps, doing laundry. Actually, this is very good news for pool owners, since it means you only need to worry about storing water for drinking and cooking purposes. In an emergency, all that pool water will definitely not go to waste!
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