Swimming Pool Water Safety: How to Tell If Public Swimming Pools Are Safe

Whether you’re looking for the nearest public swimming pools for a day of leisurely swimming, considering Boise swim lessons, or gearing up to start swim team, swimming pool water safety is an easily overlooked but important factor—especially when you consider the many bacteria that can form in Idaho’s natural landscapes and possibly contaminate outdoor swimming pools.

In this blog post, we’ll examine the primary factors of swimming pool water safety, including safe swimming temperature and safe swimming pool chlorine levels, why these factors are important, and how to gauge Boise swimming pool water safety.

Is Pool Water Safe?

When well maintained, public swimming pool water is safe. However, without proper swimming pool water safety precautions, these waters can contain unhealthy levels of chemicals or become contaminated with harmful bacteria. 

Importance of Swimming Pool Water Safety

Here in Idaho, we’re well aware of the natural bacteria that form certain times of year, making our lakes and ponds temporarily unsafe for swimming. However, it’s essential to recognize that unsafe contaminants can form not only in these natural bodies of water but also within the controlled environment of public pools. Both viral and bacterial illnesses can spread easily in water, making swimming pool water safety crucial for the safety of you and your family.

Risks of Unsafe Water

When swimmers get in the water, any dirt, sweat, pee, or fecal remnants on their body are released into the water. Even in small quantities, these contaminants can carry harmful germs through the water and spread all kinds of illnesses. Plus, in outdoor pools, environmental contributors like dirt, rainwater runoff, bird droppings, or algae can cultivate harmful bacteria. 

If these contaminants are not managed with proper swimming pool water safety measures, swimming-related illnesses can quickly form. The most common germs to form in these conditions are:

  1. Cryptosporidium, a parasite causing severe gastrointestinal illness
  2. Legionella, bacteria leading to Legionnaires’ disease, a severe respiratory infection
  3. Norovirus, a highly contagious virus triggering acute gastroenteritis with vomiting and diarrhea
  4. E. coli, a group of bacteria that can cause all kinds of illnesses, including diarrhea, urinary tract infections, and respiratory illness
  5. Giardia, a parasite that causes giardiasis, an intestinal infection =
  6. Nontuberculous mycobacteria, bacteria linked to respiratory and skin infections

Additionally, an excess of chemicals can lead to various short-term and long-term health complications; and imbalanced temperatures can both contribute to illness and impact the body’s ability to swim properly, elevating drowning risks. 

Causes of Unsafe Conditions

With so many contaminants entering the water, it’s crucial to have effective cleansing and filtration systems in place to maintain swimming pool water safety. Inadequate water circulation and filtration systems can lead to the buildup of contaminants; insufficient chlorine levels can create a breeding ground for germs; and unregulated temperature can further cultivate harmful bacteria. 

These conditions occur when facilities do not practice proper cleaning, consistent maintenance, and careful chemical and temperature regulation.

Safe Temperature for Swimming

Swimming in water that’s at the right temperature isn’t just about comfort; it’s a crucial aspect of ensuring the safety and well-being of all swimmers. Safe swimming pool temperature typically falls in the range of 83º–86º F. Within this range, swimmers can enjoy a comfortable and safe experience. 

Water that is too cold can lead to muscle cramps and fatigue, making it challenging for individuals to swim effectively. Water that is too warm provides an ideal breeding ground for harmful microorganisms, increasing the risk of waterborne illnesses.

How to Tell if Water Is the Right Temperature

Determining the right water temperature for a child is less about precision and more about keeping things comfortable and fun. If your child seems comfortable in the water, the temperature is most likely just fine, but if you notice your child shivering, it’s best  to bring out the towels and warm them up. 

The body loses heat faster in water than on land, making it susceptible to hypothermia, where heat loss outpaces production. If a child is shivering or experiencing muscle cramps, promptly remove them from the water and provide warmth using towels, blankets, or clothing.

The Role of Chlorine in Water Safety

Chlorine is a crucial component in maintaining swimming pool water safety. It acts as a disinfectant, effectively eliminating bacteria, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms that can thrive in pool water. However, understanding the balance of chlorine is key to ensuring swimming pool water safety.

What is the Highest Chlorine Level Safe to Swim In

In public swimming pools, chlorine levels should remain at 1–3 parts per million, maintaining a pH level of 7.2–7.8. Beyond this range, swimmers may experience skin rashes, red eyes, irritation, or respiratory discomfort from inhaling chloramine fumes—and prolonged exposure can lead to more severe health issues. Therefore, it’s crucial for pool operators to adhere to swimming pool water safety guidelines and regularly monitor chlorine levels.

Of course, to avoid the spread of swimming-related illnesses, chlorine levels must also be high enough. When chlorine levels are lower than one part per million, waterborne pathogens can proliferate, causing gastrointestinal issues, severe respiratory illnesses, skin rashes, and ear infections. 

Signs Chlorine Is Not at the Right Level

While public facilities should be carefully monitoring chlorine levels for swimming pool water safety, that is not always the case, and it’s helpful to know how to identify a chlorine imbalance before exposing yourself or your kids. Here are a few ways to identify insufficient chlorine levels:

The water looks murky, cloudy, or green.

This is an indication that chlorine levels may be imbalanced. Murky water suggests a potential lack of chlorine’s sanitizing efficacy, allowing impurities to thrive and compromise water clarity. Instead, pool water should maintain a crystal-clear quality, free from any greenish tint or cloudiness. 

The pool smells strongly of chlorine.

Contrary to common belief, a robust chlorine scent is not a sign of swimming pool water safety but rather a potential indicator of inadequate water sanitation. A potent chlorine smell can be a warning sign of the presence of chloramines. These chemical compounds result from the interaction of chlorine disinfectants with organic substances such as sweat, oils, skin cells, and urine in the pool. The stronger the smell, the more active the chemical reactions, implying that contaminants might not be effectively neutralized.

How to Stay Safe in Public Swimming Pools Boise Idaho

Most Boise swimming pools are well maintained for swimming pool water safety. However, like anywhere, there might be exceptions. Even in well-kept pools, bacteria can become a concern if swimmers don’t practice good water safety. Here are some simple ways to make sure you and your kids stay safe while in the water.

  1. Conduct a personal inspection. If you notice some of the above warning signs and suspect that a public facility is not maintaining swimming pool water safety, you can always ask the pool operator for more information, or you can do your own check: Use test strips, available at pool supply or hardware stores, to ensure chlorine levels between 1–3 ppm and water pH between 7.2–7.8. Plus, to ensure proper filtration, look at the bottom of the pool’s deep end for a drain that is securely attached and in good condition. 
  2. Refrain from ingesting the water. It takes a few minutes for chlorine to eliminate germs—it does not happen instantaneously. This means that when you ingest water, you may ingest contaminants before they’ve been eliminated by chlorine. 
  3. Protect your ears. More prevalent in children, swimmer’s ear is an outer ear canal infection that happens when water stays in the ear after swimming, cultivating the growth of bacteria. To prevent this, use a bathing cap or earplugs to prevent water in the ears or thoroughly dry your ears after swimming. 
  4. Protect open cuts or wounds. It’s often best to stay out of the water with open wounds or recent piercings. If you do enter the water, use waterproof bandages to completely cover the cut or wound.
  5. Shower when you get out of the pool. Upon exiting the water for the day, shed your swimsuit and cleanse your skin to eradicate any clinging germs. Remember to wash your swimsuit as well.
  6. Do your part. It’s important to protect yourself and your family from contaminants, and it’s also important to help maintain swimming pool water safety for everyone. To prevent urine in the water, encourage your children to take regular bathroom breaks, and to reduce the number of all contaminants in swimming pools, take a pre-swim shower. This is important even if you are not especially “dirty.” According to the CDC, most individuals carry about 0.14 grams of feces, akin to a few grains of sand, on their bodies at any given time.

As you search for where to swim in Boise, ensuring swimming pool water safety is one important element. But safe swimming extends far beyond environmental conditions. Water safety involves proper supervision, emergency readiness, and above all, swimming skills. 

At H2FLOW, we provide swim lessons for kids of all ages and skill levels that emphasize comfort, confidence, and safety in the water. And we do so in our carefully maintained, closely monitored facility, where swimming pool water safety is one of many measures we take to ensure a learning experience that is safe but also fun and effective.