In short, the answer is yes. However, there must be a fair amount of caution when approaching the issue of what a swimming pool and its contents can be safely used for. One of the first thoughts that comes to mind when discussing swimming pools during a disaster scenario is that they are a goldmine of post-SHTF drinking water. This is exactly where the caution comes into play because the myriad of chemicals that are typically found in pool water can be very dangerous if ingested. In addition to the potential harmful nature of pool chemicals, it cannot be assumed that just because there is a pool, that the water has been properly treated and maintained. The immediate thought is that it would be better to find drinking water elsewhere.
So with drinking pool water off the table, why would anyone want a pool for survival purposes?
Wait…. what? Yes, I will now contradict myself. While I said that it is not a good idea to drink pool water, it does not mean that a pool cannot be used to collect other water (like rain) to provide drinking water. Additionally, if a pool were to be sitting unused, it could be filled with municipal or well water that could be drawn from and filtered, as it was needed for drinking.
Among the chemicals that can typically be found around a swimming pool is “pool shock,” which is a granular form of calcium hypochlorite. So even if the water in a pool should not be consumed itself, the calcium hypochlorite that is used to treat pool water can be a method for purifying water to make it safe to drink.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the basic formula for taking ordinary water and treating it with granular calcium hypochlorite is as follows:
- Make a chlorine solution by taking a heaping teaspoon (approximately ¼ ounce) of high-test granular calcium hypochlorite and mixing it with two gallons of water until the particles dissolve.
- Add one part of the chlorine solution to 100 parts of the water to be treated. (This is roughly the equivalent of one pint of the chlorine solution to 12.5 gallons of water.)
- If the water tastes too much like chlorine, pour the treated water from one clean container to another and let it stand for a few hours before use.
Just like a pool can be repurposed to house a large quantity of water for drinking, this same water can be used for food preparation. Whether it is used to rehydrate foods, boil pasta or make soup, clean water is the only safe method for cooking.
A pool can also double as a pond to raise your own food in. Whether as a stand-alone pond or part of an aquaponics system, the ability to raise fish as a source of food can be a huge boost to one’s food preparedness. Always ensure that if a pool is used to raise fish that the water is safe for the fish. This means that pool water cannot be used but it is also not safe to raise fish in municipal water that contains chemicals. This also results in a scenario where the pool will need to be emptied and rain water (or other untreated water) will have to be allowed to fill the pool.
Probably the best choice of fish to raise in a pool in the backyard is tilapia. It is a variety of fish that is very hardy in a variety of temperatures and can be grown out to harvestable size in roughly eight months time. In addition to rapid growth, tilapia also offers a significant size and weight for the amount of food that they must consume for the output.
Sanitation is extremely important to ensuring safe, long-term survival. Without proper sanitation practices, there are great risks associated with the potential diseases that can be contracted when poor sanitation conditions are present. In a disaster scenario where regular water and sanitation systems may not be functioning, having the water necessary to carry out these vital sanitation tasks become even more important. Some of the uses of pool water for sanitation in a disaster scenario include:
Bathing — There is nothing in pool water that can make it dangerous to use to bathe with. If using pool water for bathing, don’t bathe in the pool but take water from the pool to bathe with.
Toilet flushing — As long as a toilet can be flushed down, water can be added to the tank on the back of the toilet to facilitate flushing.
Laundry — While not entirely necessary to have clean clothes all of the time, there is something to be said about the comfort that clean clothing provides. Clean and dry clothes are also best suited for providing warmth in a cold environment as compared to wet and/or dirty clothing.
Dishes — Just like making clothes clean, pool water can be used to wash dishes and ensure that food preparation can be completed safely.
There is always the risk of an accidental fire when there is no disaster scenario in effect but if there is a large-scale disaster, the availability of the fire department or other emergency services may be nonexistent. This is something that can be of even higher risk in rural or remote areas. While a pool will not provide an endless supply of water, quick action following the discovery of a fire can end the threat with a minimal amount of water compared to an out of control fire.
In order to make a swimming pool an effective means to fight a fire, it is important to either have gravity on your side or have access to a water pump to be able to send the water where it needs to be. In addition to a water pump, having enough hose and appropriate hose nozzles to fight a fire are paramount to being effective.
Even if the water in a pool cannot successfully put out a fire, it may be the stop gap needed to hold off the increasing severity of a fire for a period of time that will allow emergency services the time needed to respond to your fire.
Leisure and entertainment
It would be just plain negligent to address the issue of swimming pools without including their use for leisure and entertainment. So while there are several other potential uses for a swimming pool in surviving the end of the world as we know it, there is always an opportunity to take a swim to relax and cool off.
While there are certainly other areas of preparedness that likely dictate attention prior to a swimming pool, there are several potential ways that a swimming pool can assist in being better prepared for disaster. The advantages offered by having a pool for preparedness can also be had for a reasonable price. A large in-ground swimming pool can cost thousands of dollars but the local big box store has a great variety of above-ground options starting at little more than $100.
— Thomas Miller