In Need Of A Chemist, Post-Earthquake

I watched the water slosh around in the pool this morning after the earthquake, and got to wondering whether this could be a source of potable water in the (god forbid!) event of “The Big One” knocking out our water service for a week or so. We don’t use chlorine to treat the pool water; we use this new stuff called Baquacil that TubaDiva recommended because she uses it in her pool.

I tried to send an email to the Baquacil folks tonight, from their webpage, as I did this past summer. Although the address worked this summer, it does not now, for the mail came back to me undeliverable. So, I am wondering if we have any chemists or such out there who can tell me if there is anything I could do to make those thousands of gallons of water potable. Boil it? Draw small containers of it and leave it in the sun to evaporate chemicals out of it? Would I be better off switching to chlorine, to prepare for such a catastrophe? And if I did switch, what would I have to do to chlorine-treated water to make it potable?

Yes, I generally keep a stash of bottled water on hand, but I’m concerned about what if I run out, or if the situation is worse than what I am prepared for.



I’m not a chemist, but here’s a semi-WAG.

According to this page on, Baquacil’s active ingredients are hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and “quaternary ammonium salts”. IIRC you can cause H2O2 to break down by boiling the hell out of it. I imagine the same would be true of the ammonium compounds, because they too are unstable and tend to break down over time. (This is, of course, the reason why you always need to add more of the stuff the pool.)

Note that there are probably more chemicals in the pool water than this. In addition to the chlorine equivalent, you might also have a fungicide, and various water hardeners or Ph-correctors. None of this stuff is good for you, and some of it will probably be difficult to eliminate. I’d guess that safely drinking from the pool is harder than it would seem.

Laugh hard; it’s a long way to the bank.

Not sure how much help this will be but I have used pool water to survive after water service was interupted by a hurricane.

I and my family drank, cooked and bathed in it exclusively for over a week.

At first we boiled it but this got tiresome after a day or so and began to just scoop it out with a bucket and drank it straight. No ill effects were noted.

It was the clorinated variety and we kept the clorine floater in the water the whole time. Our logic was it would keep the bacteria content down and some cities clorinate their water anyway.

I am not familiar with the brand you describe but I assume it is a bromine based product. My WAG is that if it is safe enough for children to swim in it is probably safe to drink for a limited time.

As a side note, after water was restored we were amazed at how small a dent we put in the volume. I would guess an average sized pool could supply a family for months.

Looks like Auraseer found out it’s composition while I was composing, Ok scratch my bromine guess.

If you have some sort of carbon filtration system for water, it should take out a lot of the junk from the pool water.
On the other hand, you swim in it, so you are safe to drink small amounts of it.

I’m a chemist (but I don’t play one on TV); Unfortunately, without know exactly whats in your water I can only be of limited help. If H2O2 is part of the treatment, that is not going to be a problem. H2O2 is relatively unstable and breaks down in light (hence you buy it in dark brown bottles). Quat salts are a bit worse of a problem. I don’t know how rapidly they break down but if you check things like dish soap, detergents, and maybe even windex you will find quaternary ammonium salts, sometimes called cationic surfacants, there (in MUCH, MUCH, MUCH higher concentrations.) I’m sure these would be bad for you at high concentrations, but I suspect the low concentrations in pool water is not a problem. I think we can expect kids to be drinking pool water on a regular basis and if it even hinted at a little bit of a problem, lawsuits would have forced a change.
Chlorination also is degraded over time.

Knowing what I do about chemicals, I would not have a problem drinking pool water exclusively for a long period of time. If you are still queasy about it, You could stop treating the water, let the chemicals dissipate, take your chances with the bacteria (filtering or boiling if you feel the need). Incidently, many filters work partly because they put iodine into the water which may cause sickness (though I never had a problem drinking iodinated water for two weeks). Those filters sometimes have a charcoal canister to help remove the iodine, pesticides and other organics.

I think I’m rambling now…I hope I’ve helped… bottom line… drink the shit, it ain’t going to hurt you.

in other words, like I said, use a charcoal filter…

Hey guys, thanks! This makes me feel a LOT better about what happens if we get hit with “The Big One.”


Have to hope the ‘Big One’ doesn’t crack the bottom of your pool…

I remember as a kid in Granada Hills, the Sylmar quake shook half the water out of our pool and popped the shell out of the ground. All of what was left was muddy. If you really get the big one, chances are your pool will be destroyed.