The average swimming pool holds thousands of gallons of water. If you’re new to owning a pool, you may be surprised at how expensive it can be to fill, and how often you need to add water to keep it full.
So where does all that pool water come from? And is there a way to save money on pool water? Let’s take a closer look at pool water delivery, and find out your best options.
Where does Pool Water Come From?
There are a number of ways to fill an empty swimming pool, with varying costs and considerations for each. While every pool, household, and municipality is different, here’s an overview of the most common swimming pool water delivery methods.
City Water and a Garden Hose
You can always connect your garden hose to an outdoor tap, and use it to fill your pool.
Cost: The average American household uses about 12,000 gallons of water a month, so, depending on the size of your pool, you can expect to roughly double your water bill when filling a pool. Your city may also charge an additional sewer fee.
Time: It can take up to 48 hours to fill a standard sized swimming pool with a garden hose.
Considerations: You should call your water company or utility office and ask them about the rate for filling a pool. They will help you estimate the total costs, and may waive or reduce sewer fees if they know you are filling a pool. On the other hand, if you live in an area with water shortages or rationing, they may charge extra for filling a pool, or you may not be able to use city water to fill a pool at all.
City Water from a Fire Hydrant
Because garden hoses are such a slow way to fill a pool, many people wonder if it’s possible to fill a pool with water from a fire hydrant.
Cost: Varies tremendously. In some places, a fire department will do it for free, as an exercise to flush the line. In other places, they will do it for the cost of water, or perhaps you need to rent the hoses or pay an access fee. In some cities, you can’t do it at all and can get arrested for trying.
Time: A fire hydrant in good working order can deliver 1,500 gpm, but you shouldn’t fill a pool with fire hydrant water at full pressure even though it is one of the faster ways to do it.
Considerations: If you have a fire hydrant near your home, it may be worth calling your local fire department to ask about the possibility. There is huge local variation in the use of fire hydrants, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
If you already have a well on your property, it might be a good source of water for your pool. Make sure you check the capacity of your well to see if it has enough water for your pool.
Cost: Usually this method is very affordable, but does carry some risks. It will put a lot of additional strain on your well pump and/or softening system, that may shorten the lifespan of your equipment, and will increase your electricity bill for the month. If your calculation of the well capacity is incorrect, and your well runs dry, it can cost thousands of dollars to drill a new one.
Time: Using well water takes about as much time as using a garden hose, but it also depends on the capacity of your pump. A good pump may save some time.
Considerations: City water is usually tested and pre-treated for hardness, mineral content, and other elements before it is delivered to homes. Well water is often much harder than city water, with lots of minerals, sulfur, and other elements you don’t want in a pool. This can make it very difficult to balance pool water and keep it balanced.
Pool Water Delivery Service
Believe it or not, you can get pool water delivered, almost as easily as ordering from Amazon. There are companies that will bring a tank of water to your house, and use high-capacity hoses to fill your pool quickly.
Some of these companies even offer pre-chlorinated water that will save you time in testing and balancing your pool. In some cities with water shortages or rationing, a water delivery service may be your only option.
Cost: This method is the most expensive, and costs increase based on the size of your pool, or any balancing or pre-treating options.
Time: This method is fast. Most pool water delivery tanks carry 6,000-8,000 gallons or more of water, and charge by the tank. A standard pool can be filled within a couple hours.
Considerations: It’s a good idea to call some local water delivery companies and request a quote before making a final decision. You can compare quotes, and compare it with the cost of filling a pool with city water. One advantage of using a pool water delivery service is that they are professionals at filling pools, and will be mindful of using the correct amount of pressure, and not damaging your pool liner.
Before You Fill Up
Whichever water delivery method you choose, many experts recommend that you secure some sturdy fabric over the end of your garden hose to reduce the water pressure, and fill the bottom 2-6 inches of your pool yourself.
There are several reasons that this is a good idea, because it’s your opportunity to:
- Inspect your pool liner. This is a great time to check your pool shell or liner for any leaks that may be hard to spot later.
- Smooth out wrinkles. If your pool liner has any creases or wrinkles, you can smooth them out when there is just a couple inches of water in the pool. Once the pool is filled, wrinkles are there to stay.
- Reduce pressure. With a few inches of water in the pool, pressure is reduced and evened out, reducing the risk of damage if you go on to fill the pool using a high-pressure water flow.
When do You Need to Fill or Refill a Pool?
There are some severe water quality issues that can only be addressed by completely draining and cleaning a pool. However, for most homeowners, depending on their water quality and maintenance habits, a pool should be drained, cleaned, and refilled approximately every 2-3 years.
All pools do need the occasional top-up, because the water level lowers due to splash-out, evaporation, backwashing, and other factors. Most pool owners need to top-up pool levels in summer (with water loss from sun and evaporation, splash out from frequent pool use, and reduced inflow from rain) every week or two.
If your pool water levels are needing to be topped up more frequently, you may have a leak, or follow these tips below to help conserve water.
How to Reduce Water Loss in a Pool
Once you’ve spent all that time and money to fill your pool, you probably want your investment to pay off as long as possible. Also, testing and balancing a pool takes time and effort, and you don’t want to simply waste your high-quality water. Here are some ways to keep all that water in your pool where you want it:
- Reduce evaporation. Evaporation will take about ¼ to ½ inch of water a day in an uncovered pool. Reduce evaporation by keeping the pool covered when it isn’t in use, lowering the temperature on a pool heater, and using landscaping or barriers to protect the surface of your pool from wind.
- Reduce splashing. Every time someone leaves the pool, they carry water on their bodies, swimsuits, and in their hair. Diving, playing, fountains and water features, can all contribute to more splashout. To reduce splashout, keep the water level a bit low to prevent water from sloshing out over the side, and check the spray force and direction of fountains or waterfalls to keep them flowing back into the pool.
- Mind the backwash. Depending on the kind of pool filter you have, you may need to periodically backwash the filter to keep it clean. While cleaning the filter is necessary, and healthy for your pool, only backwash for as long as necessary, and stop the moment the water runs clear. And keeping your pool water balanced and sanitized will reduce strain on your filter, so you won’t need to backwash as much or as often.
How to Tell if You Have a Leak
Because evaporation and splashout are so normal, it can be hard to tell if your pool has a leak. Here’s a quick test:
- Take a large, watertight bucket, ideally one with transparent or opaque sides you can see through
- Set the bucket on your pool steps, partially submerged in the water. You will probably need to weigh it down with a brick to keep it in place
- Fill inside of the bucket to the exact same water level as the pool water on the outside of the bucket
- Mark the water level on the bucket
- Leave it for 24 hours, with the pool pump on as normal
- If you come back the next day and the water level inside the bucket is higher than the water level in the pool, you may have a pool leak
- Repeat this test with the pool pump off for another 24 hours to be sure
If you have a leak in your pool, it’s important to get it fixed right away. Not only are leaks expensive, but they may damage your pool or property. Continually topping up the pool is not a good way to manage a leak.
When it’s time to fill or refill a pool, you have a lot of options for water delivery, including… well… water delivery.
It’s a great idea to check first with your local water utility, no matter what your plans are, to see if they have any relevant regulations, or if they offer sewer fee discounts or help with filling a pool.
And once you have all that great water, take some care to keep it in your pool and reduce refills and topups, so you can enjoy it for longer.