Everything you need to know about your Pool Water

Pool Water Testing

Did you know there is more to maintaining a clean swimming pool or spa than simply removing debris from the water? In reality, that only skims the surface of the maintenance required to keep your swimming pool and spa safe for use. One of the most important tasks you need to take on is ensuring that the water is properly balanced.

Balanced Water for Pools and Spas

A primary concern for keeping your pool and spa safe is ensuring the water is balanced. That means that the pH isn't overly acidic or too alkaline.

Water is governed by the laws of chemical equilibrium. As different materials come in contact with the water, some of it is dissolved or suspended. Additionally, outdoor pools and spas can be diluted by other natural sources of water, such as rain, sleet, or snow. These shifts affect the chemical composition of the water and can change the associated pH.

Additionally, certain minerals can build up in the water, increasing its hardness.

Risks Associated with a Low pH

Water that reads at a pH of 7.1 or below is considered acidic. Acids have the ability to attack and break down certain substances, especially metals. That means, if your heat exchanger has copper pipes, the water can strip some of the metal away.

Acidic water also poses a threat to plaster and Marbelite pools. The surface of the material will actually begin to dissolve. This causes a rough texture that can promote algae growth in your pool. As the level of corrosion continues, sulfates are created and released into the water. This causes the pool to stain, often appearing as brown or black spots.

Swimmers can also suffer from acidic conditions. Often, symptoms include eye and nose burn, as well as dry, itchy skin. Additionally, swimwear fades more quickly and may also show wear faster than normal.

Risks Associated with a High pH

Water readings that show a pH of 7.9 or higher are a sign that the water is too alkaline. This causes the calcium in the water to combine with carbonates. Over time, this forms scale or calcifications. Often, these are best seen near the water line. The scale may initially appear white but can turn black as it traps dust and dirt.

An alkaline pool may also look cloudy or murky. This can be caused by the chemical changes in the water itself, as well as the tendency for sand filters to fail. Ineffective filters don't remove dirt and debris as efficiently, and that means more contaminants remain in your pool water.

A high pH also decreases the effectiveness of chlorine in the water. For example, once the pH reaches 8.0, chlorine only disinfects at 20% the level of efficiency as properly balanced water. That means if can take around five times as much chlorine to get the same disinfecting results as it would in properly balanced water.

Just like with acidic water, alkaline water can also harm swimmers. Eye and nose burn are common, as well as dry, itchy skin.

Proper Disinfection

Swimming pools and spas can pose numerous health risks to individuals enjoying the waters. As people enter and exit the water, a range of contaminants and pathogens also enter and exit the water with them. Some contaminants that may be transferred through unsanitary pool or spa water include:

  • Adenoviruses
  • E. coli
  • Pseudomonas aeruginosa
  • Rotavirus
  • Salmonella
  • Shigella
  • And more

Additionally, materials from the environment also get pulled into the mix such as:

  • Decaying leaves
  • Insects and other organisms
  • Bird droppings
  • Contaminated rainwater
  • And more

If the pool or spa water isn't properly disinfected, then the health of those swimming may be at risk. This not only increases the risk of illness but can also up the chances of open wounds becoming infected.

Pool and Spa Water Testing

Testing pool water involves examining multiple readings to assist with effectively balancing the water. The most common tests include:

  • Free Available Chlorine
  • Calcium Hardness
  • Cyanuric Acid
  • pH
  • Total Alkalinity

Chlorine is used to sanitize or disinfect the water. It kills bacteria and a variety of living organisms while also counteracting ammonia and other contaminants. Improper chlorine levels mean that the water is not be disinfected properly, and could present health risks to swimmers.

Calcium hardness tests show how much calcium is in the water. There is an ideal range to maintain a safe environment. Low levels mean calcium will need to be added, while high levels must be counteracted with additional water (and may involve completely or partially draining the pool to regain balance).

Considered a stabilizer or conditioner, Cyanuric acid protects the chlorine from the damaging effects of the sun. UV rays can damage chlorine, making it more difficult to keep your pool or spa properly disinfected. Cyanuric acid helps offset these effects.

As mentioned before, improper pH can not only damage your pool but can also be harmful to swimmers. The pH scale ranges from 1.0 to 14.0, and the ideal pH range falls within a specific 0.2 variance in readings.

Total alkalinity tests for materials that promote alkalinity. If these readings are too high, it will be more difficult to achieve an ideal pH balance for the water.

Working with Professionals

While many pool balancing activities can be managed on your own, there are benefits to working with professionals. First, they will be particularly adept at managing the delicate balance of the water in your swimming pool or spa. Additionally, if major changes are required, such as shocking the pool or draining and refilling it, they will have the skills and equipment required to handle to work quickly and efficiently.

Second, they will also provide all of the testing equipment and chemicals. This means you do not have to keep dangerous chemicals in your home or on your property, which may be ideal if you have small children, pets, or other concerns regarding safety.

Further, they will have access to optional tests that many homeowners don't find in a standard kit. For example, biguanide, bromine, and ozone pools often require different tests than standard chlorine options. Additionally, if you are interested in switching from one disinfectant to another, enlisting the assistance of a professional can make sure that everything is handled properly and safely along the way.

Finally, many professionals are familiar with the warning signs of a variety of pool and spa related issues. They may be able to spot evidence of structural damage more quickly than a traditional homeowner, as well as signs that additional maintenance is required.

Even if the water is properly balanced, pools and spas can require additional manual cleaning. Often, this involves skimming the surface, removing debris from within the water or on the pool floor, as well as cleaning all of the surfaces both above and below the water line.

Part of Your Community

Working with a local pool water specialist also ensures that you have access to an expert who is aware of the unique conditions within your immediate area. For example, certain weather patterns may increase the risks associated with specific contaminants. A professional from your neighborhood knows what tests are required to keep your waters safe, no matter the time of year.

Quick Results

Professionals have extensive training and practice in completing the tests required to determine the safety of your pool and spa water. Additionally, they are also more familiar with what is necessary to rebalance your water should the readings not fall into optimal ranges. Their increased experience means they can move quickly, as they have an intimate understanding about the idiosyncrasies associated with getting everything in order. So this process can be much less frustrating than a homeowner struggling to create an ideal environment over the course of a few hours, or even multiple days.

Swimming Pool and Spa Water Quality is Important to Your Health

When the water in your swimming pool or spa isn't properly managed, your health can be at risk. Water that is too acidic or overly alkaline can cause serious physical issues, and can also be damaging to your pool or spa. Improper disinfecting means you could be exposed to a range of pathogens, some of which can lead to serious illnesses or infections.

By working with skilled professionals, you know that everything is being managed properly from beginning to end. Then, instead of the hassle and annoyance associated with regular maintenance, you can see your pool or spa as the source of recreation and relaxation it was meant to be. And, ultimately, isn't that the goal?

With all of those potential benefits, why wouldn't you want to schedule your swimming pool and spa water tests today? Your (and your family's) health is counting on you, so make the decision to test today.