Frequently Asked Questions and Safety Tips

Decorative photo of water polo players.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who is the regulating agency for pools and spas on UC Davis?
  • UC Davis Environmental Health & Safety Department has qualified and licensed individuals who respond to public complaints and regulate the pools and spas. Contact them at rehs@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-1493.
  • Are lifeguards required at public pools?
  • A lifeguard is not required at most public swimming pools. However, if a lifeguard is not provided, a sign must be posted that is visible from the pool deck that reads "WARNING, NO LIFE GUARD ON DUTY". Lifeguard service is required for any public swimming pool when a direct fee is charged. For example: YMCA or a City Pool.
  • Why is showering before going into the pool water so important ?
  • Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that a swimmer has about .14 grams of feces on their body that can be ingested when pool water is swallowed. In addition, the body contains many other contaminants like natural oils, sweat, debris, dead skin that get introduced into the pool water. Showering allows swimmers to wash away impurities, which also helps to significantly reduce the risk of waterborne illnesses such as diarrhea, swimmer’s ear and skin infections.
  • Why do pools have a strong smell of bleach?
  • Many people assume the strong smell of bleach coming from a pool is due to chlorine that is added to pool water.  This often makes swimmers have a sense of contentment that the pool water is clean, however the opposite is true. The strong chlorine odor is due to chlorine that binds to ammonia produced from contaminants like sweat, urine and dirt.  These chloramines (chlorine bound to ammonia) give off a chemical odor, cause eyes to get red and sting, and use up the chlorine, making it less effective to kill germs. Strong odor means contaminants, not cleanliness !
  • Can I get sick from swimming in a pool or spa ?
  • Pool water contains numerous germs that can enter the body though open wounds or by ingesting contaminated pool water and leads to severe illnesses. They can also cause infections in eyes, nose and ears. A pool usually becomes contaminated if someone introduces fecal matter into the pool. This is why it is extremely important to never swallow pool water or enter the pool if you have or have had diarrhea in the past 14 days.  
  • Do you inspect residential pools?
  • No, we do not inspect residential pools. The Environmental Health & Safety department only inspects public swimming pools and spas
  • Doesn’t chlorine kill all of the germs in public pools and spas?
  • Yes, but it takes time. Chlorine in properly disinfected pools kills most germs that cause recreational water illnesses (RWI) in less than one hour. Chlorine takes longer to kill some germs such as crytosporidium, which can survive for days in a properly disinfected pool. This is why it is so important to maintin a proper amount of chlorine in the pool and spa.
  • What are the proper chemical levels for the pool?
  • The free chlorine residual should be between 1.0 to 10.0 parts per million for pools and 3.0 to 10.0ppm for spas. The pH level should be between 7.2 to 7.8. If cyanuric acid is used, it should be below 100 parts per million. Daily records of chlorine and pH levels must be maintained by the pool owner. To check for proper chemical levels, a DPD type test kit is required.
  • If there was a fecal accident in the pool, what should I do?
  • One must exit the pool immediately. In addition, the pool must also be closed when a fecal accident occurs. Follow the guidelines from the CDC posted here.

Safety Tips for Public Pools & Spas

(Source: Safety Tips for Public Pools & Spas, Yolo County Environmental Health)

  • LOOK at the pool and surroundings. Water should be clean and clear with no odor. Well-chlorinated pools have no odor; a strong chemical smell may indicate a maintenance problem. You should be able to hear pool pumps and filtration systems working.
  • ASK questions of the pool staff. Are chlorine and pH levels checked at least twice per day? Where are the health inspection reports for the pool?
  • ACT by being proactive. Learn about recreational water illnesses. Urge your pool operator to spread the word about water illnesses to staff and pool patrons.
  • PRACTICE healthy swimming behaviors. Refrain from swimming if you have diarrhea. Take children to the restroom and check diapers often. Shower before using the pool, swimming is communal bathing. When you are in the water you are bathing with everyone else in the pool and chlorine does not kill all germs.
  • SAFETY is always important!

Keep an eye on children at all times. Children should not have access to the pool or spa without adult supervision and should never be left unattended in a pool or spa. Fences, gates, or other means to prevent children from access to falling into the pool or spa is essential.

Protect against the sun by using a sunscreen with at least SPF15 and both UVA and UVB protection and REAPPLY after swimming.