Can You Drink Swimming Pool Water in an Emergency?

Have you ever heard a friend of family member say, “I don’t have to worry about storing water for an emergency because I have a swimming pool?” Is that true? Can you drink swimming pool water in an emergency? In this article we will find out if it is really safe to drink pool water in an emergency and what you can do to make sure that it’s safe if you ever have to rely on it for water in an emergency. Let’s dive right in!

Is it safe to drink swimming pool water in an emergency?

Can you drink swimming pool water in an emergency?

A mouthful of pool water probably won’t hurt you, but it’s generally not safe to consume large amounts of it. This is because the water contains chemicals. It is best if you consider your pool water, “non-pottable” and only use it for cleaning and washing purposes.

The chemicals we use to keep pool water safe and clean to swim in can be dangerous inside of the human body. These chemicals are cumulative and the more of them you consume, the more concentrated they become inside of the body. Additionally, there are biological dangers that can happen if you drink pool water and the filtering system hasn’t run or the chemicals are not balanced.

A 12′ x 24′ pool can contain between 8,500 gallons and 13,000 gallons of water depending on it’s depth. That’s a lot of water especially for a survivor who is searching for water after a disaster. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as filling your bottles and jugs to bring home. Raw swimming pool water can make you very sick in a short amount of time. Luckily, there are ways to make your pool water safe to drink if there are no other options. First, you need to know what you’re dealing with.

What is in your pool water?

It is helpful to know what is in your pool water so that you can figure out how to make it safe to drink. While it is impossible to know exactly what is in every pool, here is a list of common chemicals and some possible contaminants you might find after a disaster.

Common Pool Chemicals:

  • Chlorine. A pool that has been properly maintained will probably have a myriad of harsh chemicals in its water. You should expect chlorine in both the solid form (calcium hypochlorite) and the liquid form (sodium hypochlorite.) Once the compounds are released into the pool, the chlorine reacts with the water and creates hypochlorous acid. This chemical attacks pathogens by destroying the enzymes and lipids in their cells. Unfortunately, it cannot tell the difference between a pathogen’s cells and your cells, so don’t drink straight pool water.
  • Bromide is an alternative sanitizing and cleaning agent for pools. It works similarly to chlorine.
  • Cyanuric Acid is also known as “pool conditioner.” It is a stabilizing agent that is used with sanitizing chemicals. It helps the hypochlorous acid resist the destabilizing effects of ultraviolet light. By itself, it may cause some eye and skin irritation. You definitely don’t want to consume it in large quantities.
  • Ammonia in swimming pools comes from bodily fluids(urine and sweat), decaying organic matter (like leaves), fertilizers that might have accidentally slipped into the pool from nearby landscaping, and hygiene products (sunscreen, body lotions, etc.) Ammonia is a known irritant.
  • Chloramines are produced when ammonia combines with hypochlorous acid. Chloramines irritate the mucous membranes and skin and they smell bad.
  • Salt water pools are popular for those who don’t want chlorinated water. These pools still require chemicals. They use salt and a salt chlorine generator to make chlorine. They contain about 1/10 the salinity of the ocean, but it’s still too much salt for you to consume.

Common Pool Contaminants:

  • Bacteria and other pathogens. If a pool hasn’t been meticulously maintained, it will have bacteria, viruses, parasites, and a variety of pathogens. Even pools that are well maintained can struggle with tough parasites like giardia. A big problem with pools is that you cannot tell if the water has been treated just by looking at it. By the time it grows algae, you would have swallowed enough of the bad stuff to make you violently ill.
  • Human skin cells and other contaminants. Hot tubs are basically “people soup.” This is because every time a person gets into the water, they shed skin cells, mucous, and sweat.
  • Debris. After a disaster, pool maintenance is not going to be at the top of anyone’s to-do-list. This means that many pools will be filthy. Dirt, branches, leaves, exhaust, and anything else that can blow, will end up in your pool. You may be able to see the obvious debris, but you need to worry about the things that you cannot see. Microscopic flecks of lead paint or asbestos from the disintegrated walls of your neighbor’s house, could end up in your coffee pot if you’re not careful.
  • Animal Waste will be in every pool, even before a disaster. It gets tracked in on human feet, blown in by the wind, plopped down from the heavens when a flock of birds happens to fly over your pool, or hitching a ride on your dog when he takes a dip. Animal feces, saliva, fir, and anything else they step in or carry on their fur, is probably stewing in the pool.
  • Insects and algae. Algae will start to grow in any unmaintained pool. After awhile, the mosquitoes and insects will move in too. The key is to get to the water before they do.
Can you drink swimming pool water in an emergency?

How to make pool water safe to drink

As you can clearly see, it is not safe to drink water straight from the swimming pool. However, it is possible to make it safe to drink if you are willing to put in the work to treat it.

Use a water filter

You should always filter the water first, even if it’s your own pool. You will not be able to see parasites, bacteria, cysts, and chemicals, but a good water filter will make it so that you won’t have to.

Travel Berkey Gravity-Fed Water Filter

The Berkey has amazing filtration capabilities and is a prepper-favorite. It can filter up to 6,000 gallons of water before you need to change the filters. I do not recommend relying on a swimming pool for a drinking water source, but this filter is able to turn less than ideal water into drinking water. Although I would still personally avoid drinking pool water. You really should have the best possible water filter when it comes to drinking water and many preppers swear by this Berkey filter.

This specific model comes with 2 black carbon activated filter elements that are necessary for removing more contaminants from the water including harmful chemicals. One of the biggest concerns in pool water is chemical contamination. This filter is also powerful enough to filter out biological contaminants that could grow in the pool after a power failure.

Let’s Review the Travel Berkey for SHTF

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter for Hiking, Camping, Travel, and Emergency Preparedness

The Lifestraw is another great water filter. It may not be as powerful as the Berkey, but it is incredibly small and portable. It won’t really help your swimming pool, but it is very beneficial to have the ability to quickly and easily filter water. This means that you could filter water from a nearby stream, lake, or creek.

It can filter down to one micron which will get rid of giardia and cryptosporidium. It also utilizes carbon which means that it is capable of filtering out many of the chemicals that may be present in a swimming pool. Keep in mind that it’s a personal filter and handy to have in a pinch.

How effective is the Lifestraw?… Lifestraw vs. muddy puddle

Filtering the pool water is just the first step. If you want truly pure water, you will need to distill it.

Tip: If you don’t have a filter, you can use several layers of tightly woven fabric to filter out the largest particles. Stack clean jeans, shirts, or any other kind of fabric over a container and run the water over it. By the time the water runs through the fabric, the large particles will be out of it. While this will not filter out chemicals and bacteria, at least you won’t have to worry about drinking lead paint chips.

UV Rays will Dechlorinate Pools

Eventually, UV Rays will get rid of the chlorine in a pool. If no stabilizers were used, on a very sunny day, it could take just a few hours for the chlorine to dissipate. Most pool cleaning services utilize stabilizers so you would have to wait weeks for the chlorine to fully dissipate from a large pool. You can scoop out the water and put it in a smaller open mouth container and leave it in the sunlight for a few days to speed up the process.

Drinking water test strips can help you find out what the chlorine level is. Anything less than 4 ppm (parts per million) is considered safe to drink. Exercise caution. The chlorine levels may be within an acceptable range, but this doesn’t mean that other harmful chemicals aren’t present.

Bonus info: The sun kills bacteria. Bacteria can be a serious issue in a pool when the filter hasn’t run in a few days. You can utilize the UV rays and kill bacteria in the water by putting the water in a small clear water bottle. Now place the bottle flat on the ground in a sunny location and allow the sun to work for you. This is called the “SODIS Method.”

Visit this article for a guide on how to use the SODIS Method:

Distilling water is still the best option

The number one way to purify water is to distill it. Distillation is the process of separating the contaminants from clean water using evaporation. Either wait for nature to do its thing or build a still to speed up the process. It doesn’t matter how it’s done because both result in clean, pure water that is safe to drink.

A still is a simple contraption that catches water vapors. When the water evaporates, it abandons bacteria, parasites, particulates, and chemicals. Make sure that your collection container is clean. The evaporated water will condense into clean water droplets and collect in your container.

It would be ideal if you have a heat source that would allow you to boil the water. Boiling the water and collecting the evaporation will help you get a drink much faster. If you only have sunlight and time, solar will help you accomplish this task too.

How to build a still to purify pool water:

Here are directions for creating a basic water still that will distill swimming pool water and make it safe to drink. This version relies on a fuel source to heat the water. It is a good alternative for cooler more cloudy climates.

You’ll need:

  • Open-top pot to hold pool water
  • A flat, smooth sheet of metal, glass, or plastic
  • Another clean container (cup, bottle, or bowl) to collect your clean water
  • Heat source. This can be a small fire or stove.


  1. Fill your open-top pot with water from the swimming pool and raise and support it off the ground so you can heat it from underneath.
  2. At an angle, place the sheet (metal, glass, or plastic) over the pot. A 45 degree angle will work well, but it doesn’t have to be precise. You may need to find another way to support your sheet so that it doesn’t touch the pot.
  3. Place the lower end of the sheet in a empty, clean collection container. The corner of the sheet should fit nicely in the container so that no water is lost.
  4. Heat the pool water. You should see some steam rise, touch the sheet, then slowly condense back into water droplets. If your sheet is at a proper angle, the water will roll down the sheet and collect in your collection container.

Tip: The sheet that you suspend above the pot needs to be colder than the steam that’s rising into it (this helps the steam condense into water droplets on the sheet.) Usually, just suspending the sheet above the pot will be an effective way to keep it cooler than the steam. Experiment with different heights above the pot to find the ideal level for the sheet. Also, make sure it’s as cool as possible and don’t use a metal sheet in sunlight.

How to make a Plastic bottle Solar distiller

Can you use chemicals to make pool water safe to drink?

I wouldn’t use chemicals to make pool water safe to drink. Think about it, you’re thinking of drinking water that has been treated with chemicals to make it safe to swim in. Do you really want to add more chemicals to it? Don’t add more chemicals to water that is already overly chemically treated. I don’t think it’s worth the attempt and wouldn’t want to drink water that has so many chemicals in it.


I would never suggest that you rely on your pool as an option for survival. Ideally, you will have a nice supply of clean, fresh water on hand for drinking. You can use your pool water for other tasks such as washing, flushing toilets, and other purposes.

Relying on your pool water as an emergency water source is also a bad idea because it can easily become contaminated or stagnant. This is especially true when the grid is down and your pool filter stops working. Additionally, your pool chemicals could be difficult or even impossible to remove.

However, I understand that in survival situations, the conditions are rarely ideal. I personally wouldn’t do it, but “desperate times call for desperate measures.” It’s good to at least have the knowledge in case you need it someday. If you have to rely on your pool, the only way to make the water safe for consumption is to filter and distill it. Filtering will remove the big stuff and even some chemicals (if you’re using a carbon-based filter). Distilling the water will remove everything else.

Now I want to hear from your! What are your thoughts on using pool water? Comment below to share!

I hope this was helpful!

? Alana