Operating Public Swimming Pools

Pool testing kit

Preventing recreational water illnesses (RWIs) is a multifaceted issue that requires participation from pool staff, swimmers, and health departments. Poor maintenance can result in low disinfectant levels that can allow the spread of a variety of germs that cause diarrhea as well as skin and respiratory RWIs. Although pool staff alone cannot completely stop these complex problems, they play a key role in assuring the health of pool visitors. By following a few simple steps, aquatic managers and staff can lead the way.

  • Obtain state or local authority-recommended operator and chemical handling training.
  • Ensure availability of trained operation staff during the weekends when pools are used most.
  • Maintain free chlorine levels continuously between 1–3 parts per million.
  • Maintain the pH level of the water at 7.2–7.8.
  • Test pH and disinfectant levels at least twice per day (hourly when in heavy use).
  • Maintain accurate records of disinfectant/pH measurements and maintenance activities.
  • Maintain filtration and recirculation systems according to manufacturer recommendations.
  • Ensure cleanliness and safety of restrooms, showers, and diaper changing areas.
  • Enforce bather load limits.
  • Scrub pool surfaces to remove any slime layer.
  • Drain and replace portions of the water on a weekly to monthly basis, depending on usage and water quality.
  • Treat the pool with a biocidal shock treatment on a daily to weekly basis, depending on water quality and frequency of water replacement.
  • Institute a preventative maintenance program to replace equipment or parts before they fail (e.g., feed pump tubing, injectors, sensor probes).
  • Provide disinfection guidelines for fecal accidents and body fluid spills.
  • Develop employee policies for staff who are ill with RWIs (e.g., diarrhea) and a communication chain for reporting operation problems.
  • Implement large group orientations, particularly for young children, and bathroom break policies to promote healthy swimming.
  • Educate pool users and parents about RWIs and appropriate pool use (i.e., no swimming when ill with diarrhea).

For more suggestions for preventing the spread of germs, see Preventing Recreational Water Illnesses at Your Facility. For more information about water treatment and testing for residential pools, see Water Treatment and Testing.

Page last reviewed: April 2, 2022