Can Your Pool or Hot Tub Really be Used as a Source of Water?

pool-waterWhile I don’t have a pool a few neighbors do. I’m sure a few have hot tubs too… rough life, I know. In fact, as I write this I’m sitting pool-side watching my kids swim at a neighbor’s pool because they’re more than nice enough to allow us that privilege on such hot summer days. But, while my kids are splashing around having mindless fun, I’m thinking about the pool as a source of water should be need ever arise. After all, there are many thousands of gallons of useful water just sitting there!

The question really is whether or not this water can truly be relied upon as a source of water should the grid stop functioning for any length of time?

Well, the first problem you have is simply whether or not any large standing body of water–be it a pool or hot tub primarily–will actually be there when you need it most. That is, could the pool have been damaged and developed a crack that then allows all (or most) of the water to drain away. Major disasters like an earthquake could certainly cause this whereas smaller catastrophes such as a fallen tree from a significant windstorm could do the same.

The next problem is whether or not that pool water is actually usable as a source of clean, potable, water. Your first reaction might be “sure it is, I drink it whether I want to or not whenever I go swimming and haven’t died yet!” So, yes, the start of this answer is that it could be used as a source of potable water… sort of.

Unfortunately, a pool is still open to the environment and can be subject to anything that might float through the air, from natural contaminants such as pollens to man-made chemicals. You also have the problem of whatever rodents might drop in the pool and especially the occasional bird droppings… yuk! Of course, so long as your pool is properly chlorinated and the mechanics are actively functioning to clean the pool then these are of lesser concern, in my opinion.

A possible problem that may be of concern over the long term is that of constantly ingesting water that is always chlorinated. People with weak immune systems or perhaps pregnant women would be more at risk, or so they say. Personally, I wouldn’t want to ingest a lot of chlorinated water regardless–hence, why I don’t chlorinate my stored water but instead choose to use a quality gravity filter–but if it doesn’t bother you too much then maybe chlorination isn’t that big of a concern either. Of course, I’ve also read that the common swimming pool is less chlorinated than tap water so maybe it’s not a big deal after all.

I have heard, however, that once the active chlorination process that keeps the pool water properly chlorinated stops then that chlorine dissipates into the atmosphere rather quickly, say within a few days. This could either be a really good thing if you don’t want to ingest chlorinated water or really bad if you’re now weeks into a disaster scenario and you’re happily ingesting pool water that you THINK is well-chlorinated–and therefore safe to drink–but really is not.

Either way, so long as this water hasn’t been lost for some reason then you can surely use it for non-consumption reasons, including doing the dishes, washing clothes, maybe even bathing if you’re careful not to ingest any. I wouldn’t see much harm in using it to water the garden or for any other reason where greywater would be useful.

Ultimately, I would say that you can certainly use your pool or spa water for an emergency so long as you understand that (1) it might not be as clean as you thought and (2) it might not be there post-disaster. In my opinion, consider pools and spas as a “bonus” source of water and not something to rely upon. Instead, ensure you have plenty of water properly stored in either large water drums (e.g., 55-gallon water barrels) or 257+ gallon IBC totes. Consider a minimum of one 55-gallon drum per family member as a start. Obviously, it’s hard to have too much water so if you can store more then please do so.

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Posted in Water / Food
11 comments on “Can Your Pool or Hot Tub Really be Used as a Source of Water?
  1. j.h. says:

    That’s a great point about the popularity of salt water swimming pools & keeping some material around to use gutters for refilling them. On using/drinking pool/hot tub water it’s not really the consumption of chlorinated water that’s the problem but the algicides & sanitizers used. Many contain copper & other chemicals to keep the nasty stuff away that traditional filters just can’t filter out. Sodium hypochlorite has been used for a long time as a means of water purification, by getting a basic pool water test kit one can test the strength of chlorine in the water & adjust accordingly. HTH powdered (not the tablets) “pool shock” with 54-60% sodium hypochlorite has been a long standing ‘prepper’ standby for batch water purification. It can be kept in ziplock/vacuum sealed bags for a long time before loosing it’s potency. It can be diluted with water into making laundry bleach, Dakin’s solution (antiseptic)and into a liquid for for water purification among other uses.

    • That’s a good thought about keeping pool test kits. I would imagine that most people who own pools and hot tubs already have them but it can’t hurt to keep your own supply too. Thanks for the info about the algicides and sanitizers… I wonder if they would dissipate into the air also or hang around?

  2. Medea says:

    Incidentally, the 2004 movie “Hotel Rwanda” (supposedly closely modeled after the real event) shows the hotel pool being used for drinking water for the 1268 refugees that were hiding there from the ’94 tribal genocide in Rwanda, when the hotel was under siege from the rebels and cut off from all supplies. It was the hotel manager’s resourcefulness that saved all those people who were trapped in the hotel for over two months without any supplies, until the UN finally evacuated them.

    But, apartment pool water here may quickly become undrinkable if there’s no common sense and people tend to their immediate needs first by jumping in, either to cool off or to wash their sweaty bodies after AC and showers stop working.
    The book “Water storage” by Art Ludwig details the annoyance of possibly finding strangers going for an impromptu skinny dip in one’s precious drinking water tank.

    I live in the arid Southwest and water is definitely a serious concern; private wells are rare to non-existent, and catching enough monsoon rainwater isn’t feasible for apartment dwellers on their own. And I am not sure how much self-constraint could be expected from the typical citizen today with respect to keeping the pool water uncontaminated as long as possible.

    • That would be a sight to see: skinny dipping in a drinking water tank. ;)

      • Medea says:

        Haha…;) guess it was, for the book’s author who was describing some bikers using his tank for cooling off… The book describes big above ground cisterns, tanks and catchments where the lid can be lifted off so you can crawl if you have the mind to.

  3. Monika says:

    We have used the water from our hot tub numerous times but never as a potable water source. We are on a well & septic system so when the power goes out, we simply use the hot tub water to flush the toilets. We have heated it up on the propane stove as well to take a “bath”.

  4. JAS says:

    While I don’t have a pool, most of my neighbors do. I plan to make use of these if things get really bad, but plan on filtering the water for drinking. The biggest problem in our area is that many of the pools are salt water pools instead of chlorinated. I have made it a point of asking my neighbors if theirs is salt or chlorine and keeping a list of where all of the pools in the neighborhood are and what type. I do not plan on using the salt pools for drinking, but they would be ok for washing and sanitation use. Another thing to consider if you have a pool is to keep some extra down spout sections on hand and route your gutter drains to the pool in an emergency to keep it topped off.

    • Seems I totally failed to talk about salt water pools, didn’t I? That is more of a problem when it comes to potable water. Thanks for pointing salt water pools out!

  5. Scooter says:

    I hve a hottub and ts under roof on our sun porch…We had a watermin breakabou 3 months ago…ad # 2 dughter was freeking out because w had no water to shower or flush…I went to the gaage got 2 large obster pots and startin heating water from hottub..I turn off heater after hoidays. Soon we had t water to take a short bath and flush. Problems solved. I also ask her about not electirc issues…we have generator als to bacfeed the ouse. iing in FLA for 26+ years/hurricanes, we got used to being offgrid Oh yes, ran the HT water through a filter and had plenty to drink too.a

  6. Curtiss says:

    Pool water is a valuable source of water for many of us, there are many flushes in a 3000 gallon swimming pool. this may not work for people on a city sewer system. But those of us with septic systems will be able to flush away and maintain a good level of sanitation in the home without having to dig a latrine or other alternate toilet sources. I also have a plastic port potty that can be used on my property, and if the pump truck stops coming around i can dip it out and put it into the clean out access to my septic tank.

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