Swimming Pools

Boy and girl swimming with an inner tube.

How to Properly Drain Pool and Spa Water

During the spring and fall, large amounts of water from swimming pools and spas are discharged into the storm drain system. The storm drain system in Arlington drains directly into its streams. Swimming pool and spa water can have devastating effects on the health of our streams if not disposed of properly. The chlorine, bromine, algaecides, cleaning chemicals and low oxygen levels can kill fish and other aquatic life in streams. Also, draining large volumes of water quickly can cause stream bank erosion. Only freshwater that is dechlorinated, pH neutral, chemical-free and clean may be slowly discharged into the storm drain system.

Public Pool Connections

New public or commercial pools are required to be connected to the sanitary sewer system. Contact Arlington County’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, Inspection Services Division, at 703-228-3800 for information about swimming pool connections and requirements.

When you drain your pool, follow the rules. Draining Your Pool or Spa Water Into a Storm Drain? Prepare the Water Prior to Draining by:

  • Remove chlorine or bromine from the water prior to discharge. Use removal agents or allow untreated water to sit for approximately 10 days to allow the chlorine or bromine to dissipate. Use a pool test kit to ensure there aren’t any detectable levels of chlorine or bromine before discharging the water. Chlorine and bromine are toxic to fish and other animals like crayfish that live in our streams.
  • Adjust the water’s pH to 7 (neutral). Use appropriate buffering compounds to adjust the pH level and a test kit to check the pH level before discharging the water.
  • Allow heated water to cool over an extended period (roughly 10 days) before discharging.
  • Remove/filter out debris, including dirt, leaves, sticks or algae before draining pool water.
  • Discharge the water slowly over a vegetated (grass) area over the course of several days to allow the water to soak into the ground and reduce the amount that goes into the storm drain. This will help prevent stream bank erosion from large flows of water going into a stream.
  • Drain into the sanitary sewer system whenever possible. Water may be drained slowly into a private sanitary lateral clean out.

Do not discharge freshwater that is cloudy, dirty or contains wash water from swimming pool cleaning activities into a storm drain or stream. Saltwater may NEVER be discharged into a storm drain or stream.

Arlington County Code

Chapter 26-5(c) makes it unlawful for any person to discharge directly or indirectly into the storm sewer system or state waters, any substance likely, in the opinion of the County Manager, to have an adverse effect on the storm sewer system or state waters. Failure to comply with code requirements may result in enforcement action, including the issuance of civil penalties as outlined in Chapter 26-9 of the Arlington County Code. Enforcement action may also be taken by state and federal authorities in the event of a fish kill. Please share this information with pool service companies. You may be held responsible for the results of their actions.

If pool or spa water is to be released over-land, the release should be:

  • At least 10 feet from the property line
  • Monitored and controlled to prevent flooding or erosion of neighboring properties

Conflicts between neighbors that arise due to the release of pool or spa water are considered civil in nature. The Property Drainage webpage contains further information about residential drainage concerns and the potential conflicts that can arise.

For more information on swimming pools and how to properly manage pool water discharge, call 703-228-4488The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s swimming pool release guidelines provide additional information.

Report fish kills, spills, or dumping into a stream or storm drain to the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222.