How to Drain a Pool

by James Fitzgerald
small outdoor decorative wading pool

There comes a time when every pool owner must perform an essential yet frequently overlooked maintenance task: draining their pool.

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Whether it's for winterizing, conducting extensive repairs or simply refreshing the water, draining your pool is a necessary undertaking.

Check With Local Authorities First

Pool water contains chemicals such as chlorine and other sanitizers that can be harmful to the environment if not properly managed. Consequently, local authorities responsible for water management or environmental regulations likely have regulations surrounding pool drainage practices in place to protect local waterways, ecosystems and public health. Violating these regulations can result in steep fines, so it’s important to determine what they are prior to draining your pool.

Common regulations surrounding draining a pool vary by location but often include a few standard requirements. Many areas require that pool owners drain their pool water into the municipal sewer system through a drain cleanout connected to your home (like the underground drain responsible for capturing and directing the water from your rain gutters) rather than the storm sewer system through a storm drain. That’s because the municipal sewer system treats the water before it's reintroduced into the environment, while storm sewers often lead directly to natural bodies of water like rivers or lakes.

On the other hand, some areas do allow for draining pool water into storm sewers, but with certain conditions. For instance, they may require the water to meet specific discharge parameters, such as maintaining a certain pH level, or they may require you to dechlorinate the water first.

In other areas, the regulations permit you to drain your pool water onto your property as long as the water doesn't flow onto neighboring properties or into public spaces. There may also be requirements that the water should seep into the ground within a certain timeframe to prevent runoff.

Another common regulation is that homeowners notify the local government or water treatment facility before discharging large volumes of water, such as when draining a pool.

While the specific contacts and agencies may vary depending on your location, here are some to consider:

  • Municipal or city government: Contact your local city or town hall, specifically the department responsible for environmental services or water management.
  • County or regional environmental agencies: County or regional environmental agencies often have jurisdiction over water quality and management. They can provide guidance on proper pool water discharge, including whether to drain into the sanitary sewer system or if there are specific requirements for discharging into the storm sewer system.
  • Water treatment facilities: Reach out to your local water treatment facility or sewage treatment plant. They can inform you about any specific water treatment requirements or restrictions related to pool water discharge. They may also provide guidance on dechlorination or other necessary measures to ensure proper water treatment before disposal.
  • Homeowners' association: If you live in a neighborhood or community with a homeowners' association, they may have specific rules or guidelines regarding pool maintenance and water drainage.
  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): In some cases, contacting the local branch or office of the EPA can provide you with valuable information on environmental regulations and guidelines related to pool water discharge.

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How to Drain a Pool: 2 Methods

The steps for draining an inground and above-ground are essentially the same, but an above-ground pool requires one additional step: removing the hydrostatic plug.

The hydrostatic plug is a safety feature designed to relieve pressure from groundwater beneath the pool, and is typically a round or square plastic or rubber plug located at the bottom of the pool. Removing the hydrostatic plug allows water to equalize on both sides of the pool, preventing potential damage.

To remove it, insert a pool plug wrench into the corresponding slot on the plug and turn it counterclockwise until it’s removed.

For both above-ground and inground pools, unplug the filtration system from its electrical outlet before you begin draining to prevent any damage.

How to Drain a Pool With a Pump

Using a submersible pump is an efficient method for draining your pool quickly and effectively.

Things You’ll Need

  • Submersible pump
  • Pump hose or garden hose
  • Hose clamps (if necessary)
  • Extension cord (if necessary)
  • Wet vacuum or bucket

Step 1: Attach the Hose

Connect the pump hose or discharge hose to the outlet port of the submersible pump. Ensure a secure connection using hose clamps if necessary. Run the other end of the hose to your designated drainage area.

Step 2: Set up the Pump

Ensure the pump is in good working condition and follow the manufacturer's instructions for setup. Set the submersible pump at the deepest part of your pool.

Step 3: Power the Pump

Plug the submersible pump into a suitable power source. Use an outlet that is GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter) protected, such as the outlet that your pool’s filtration system was plugged into. If necessary, use an extension cord that is compatible with the pump's power requirements and rated for outdoor use.

Step 4: Start Draining

Turn on the pump to begin the draining process. The pump will start drawing water from the pool and discharging it through the pump hose or garden hose.

Step 5: Monitor the Process

Even though a pump will drain your pool relatively rapidly, the process usually takes around 14 hours, depending on the size of the pool. During that time, keep an eye on the draining process to ensure everything is functioning properly. Check the pump periodically to ensure it's working effectively and not clogged with debris. Monitor the level of the water in your pool to avoid running the pump dry, which can damage it.

Step 6: Manually Remove the Remaining Water

Once the water level is too low for the pump to function effectively, you'll need to handle the remaining water manually. You can use a bucket or a wet vacuum to remove this water.

How to Drain a Pool With a Siphon

Siphoning is the process of transferring liquids that relies on gravity and a vacuum or pressure difference. This allows the liquid to flow from a higher level to a lower level without the need for pumps or external power sources. Draining a pool using a siphon is a slower process compared to using a pump, but it can be useful if you don’t have a pump available. However, the siphon will only work if the end of the hose that’s discharging the water is lower than the bottom of the pool, which can be difficult to achieve with an in-ground pool.

Things You’ll Need

  • Garden hose — either one that’s long enough to reach from the pool to the desired drainage area, or multiple hoses connected in series

Step 1: Set the Hose

Place one end of your garden hose at the bottom of the pool, ensuring it's fully submerged.

Step 2: Prime the Hose

The hose should be filled with water before it can transfer the liquid. To do so, connect the other end of the hose to an outdoor faucet and turn it on to fill the hose with water. Once filled, disconnect it from the faucet and seal the end of the hose with your hand. This will help keep the water inside the hose.

Step 3: Position the Hose End

Still keeping the end sealed, move this end of the hose to your designated drainage area. This should be a lower point than the bottom of your pool in order for the siphon to work properly.

Step 4: Start the Siphon

Unseal the end of the hose. Water should start flowing out due to the vacuum created by gravity. The siphoning action will continue until the water level drops below the submerged end of the hose in the pool or the hose is removed from the pool.

Step 5: Monitor the Process

Regularly check on the process to ensure the water is flowing correctly and the pool is draining. The siphon method can take a while, so be patient.

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