From the ages of 16 to 20, I had the greatest job. I got to sit by a pool, work on my tan and occasionally yell at someone for running — yep, I was a lifeguard. Since then, however, I rarely go in public pools, having seen all the s— that goes in them: by the end of a hot summer’s day, there’d be so much sweat, suntan lotion, urine, hair, baby throw-up, diaper bits, etc. that we could barely see to the bottom. In order to “clean” all of this, we had to pump water out, filter more in and infuse it all with a whole bunch of chlorine and other chemicals.
As you can see from the diagram above, pools aren’t just a hole in the ground filled with water — they’re a complex system that requires a lot of energy, maintenance and often thousands of gallons of water, which in an outdoor pool can evaporate at least a few inches per day. The more people that use it, the more bacteria develops, which means all the more bleach to kill it off. When I was on swim team in high school, I actually had to stop wearing any silver jewellery because it would get tarnished after just a couple hours, and I had to use special swimming shampoo because, even with a bathing cap, my hair would still be completely wrecked.
So while pools can be a good alternative to blasting the air-conditioning in the summer, an even better option is the beach, a lake, or any natural source of water. From now on, then, I’ll be giving my local lifeguards one less body to worry about and swimming in water that won’t burn my eyeballs so much.
Diagram from HowStuffWorks.com