Do You Need a Permit to Drain Your Pool?

Written by Michael Dean
August 7, 2023

permit next to a draining swimming pool

Sometimes, your pool needs a fresh start. But there’s a lot more to draining a pool than meets the eye. Whether you’re draining it for repairs, to address total dissolved solids (TDS) levels, or to remove a bad algae infestation, the work calls for experience, knowledge, the right tools, and, of course, a precise hand, or you risk damaging your property. Plus, all that water has to go somewhere. It is a challenging task that might need a permit from county or municipal authorities before you pull the plug. But do you really need a permit to drain your pool? Let’s get into it.

Main Takeaways

  • You probably need a permit to drain your pool if you live in an area prone to water shortages, if you’re seeking to drain your water into the residential sewer system or live near a large water body.
  • If you can plan it out well, you can drain your pool water into the ground to irrigate your garden to reuse the water—this helps the environment and your bills.
  • Draining an inground pool must be an absolute last-resort decision.

Do You Need a Permit to Drain Your Pool?

The answer really depends on your location, and you will need to check your local municipality’s rules and regulations. In some places, you won’t need a permit. But in others, your municipality will require you to get one before draining your pool. If you do need a permit, you’ll likely need to provide some additional information, such as:

  • Why you’re draining your pool
  • A sample of the pool water to be drained
  • A statement issued by a contractor as to the nature of repairs being carried out
  • Water disposal strategy

The requirements will differ depending on your city and municipality, so always check the proper permit information beforehand.

When Do You Need a Permit to Drain Your Pool?

As always, the answer to this question all boils down to where you live and any local regulations. However, I will say that, in general, you’re more likely to need a permit to drain the swimming pool if you live in an area prone to water shortages (California, for example), if you’re planning to drain your water into the residential sewer system, or if your pool is located near an ecologically protected water body. On the flip side, you may not need a permit if you plan to reuse the (unchlorinated) water for irrigation on your landscape.

There are different restrictions and regulations even within a single state. For instance, in one city, you might need a permit to drain a pool that is 10,000 gallons or more, while in another, the limit might be 2,500 gallons or more. Some areas are even stricter; in Visalia, CA, for instance, swimming pools can only be drained every three years unless the pool needs structural repairs or the pool water has become a health and safety hazard as determined by a county official.

Still unsure whether you need a permit? Ask your local municipal board! They’ll be able to give you detailed info on the requirements in your area and point you toward any permits required. I’ll dive deeper into who you can ask below!

Where Can You Drain Your Pool Water?

One of the most important considerations when draining your pool water is deciding where to drain it. In some municipalities, where you drain your pool water will affect your permit too. There are a few places for you to choose from when draining your pool water:

Local Sewer System

Hands down, this is your easiest and most convenient option, as long as you do it the right way. However, you may likely need to obtain a permit from your local authorities before doing so.

Your Yard

If you have a large yard, you can drain your pool water into the ground to irrigate your garden—this is an excellent way to reuse the water and save on your bills. However, this needs to be done slowly over time and with water that has been adequately dechlorinated beforehand.

Wastewater Reclamation Facility

Some communities have water reclamation facilities that accept pool water to treat and reuse. Ask around or do a quick Google search to see if this option is viable for your area.

Hire a Contractor

If you do not want to drain your pool yourself, you can hire a pool draining service to do it for you. Keep in mind that this may be more expensive, but it is convenient and ensures the process is done correctly. This is particularly important for inground pools. Improperly draining your water can even lead to massive structural damage, so hiring a professional can lessen and eliminate the risk. And, of course, a contractor will make sure to drain your water correctly, including obtaining the proper permits if necessary.

How to Properly Drain Your Pool

Here’s a quick step-by-step on how to properly drain your pool:

  1. Assess your groundwater situation. If water levels in your area are high, an empty pool can easily pop out of the ground, which is the last thing you’ll want.
  2. Assess the type of pool it is. Fiberglass or vinyl pools require special consideration since the complete draining can cause the structures to crack and shatter.
  3. Disconnect the pool pump and filter to prevent the pump from sucking air, which will damage your equipment.
  4. Use a submersible pump. You might need to rent a submersible pump from a local pool supply store if you don’t already have one.
  5. Be careful not to drain the pool too quickly—maintain a pace of around 12 gallons per minute.
  6. And finally, be patient! Draining a whole pool can take up to a full day.

Where to Find Permit Information for Your Pool

There is no one straight answer regarding whether or not you need a permit to drain your pool, so how can you find the correct permit information to ensure you do the task legally? Thankfully, there are many sources where you can find this information.

Your Local Government

In my opinion, this is the most direct way to get permit information quickly. You can call or email your local municipality to get some answers or simply do a quick search on the internet, and you might find that the municipality already has a section dedicated solely to pool permits – including those for draining specifically.

Your Homeowners’ Association (HOA)

On top of your municipal authority, you should check the rules with your HOA (if you have one). Some HOAs may have their own regulations regarding pools, including draining. Your HOA should also be able to give you the government regulations on draining your pool. So, get in touch with them to see if you need to keep anything in mind.

A Pool Contractor

If you hire a pool contractor to drain your pool, the professional should have all the up-to-date info on pool drainage permits in your area. Hiring a contractor is obviously more expensive than DIY, but you pay for the peace of mind that the job is done correctly. Your pool professional should obtain all necessary permits on your behalf.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I drain my pool onto the street?

Absolutely not! In fact, in most cases, this is illegal. Not only is it utterly disrespectful to your neighbors, but draining your swimming pool water onto the street also violates local codes.

Why should you avoid draining an inground pool?

Draining an inground pool must be a last-resort decision when you have no other option. If you can, avoid draining your pool entirely, as it can seriously damage the pool’s structural integrity. 

Should I drain my pool if it is green?

You do not necessarily need to drain your pool if it is green. Instead, try shocking the pool, using a clarifier, brushing the walls of the pool, and vacuuming up the loosened algae and debris. If all else fails, you can also try a partial drain and refill, but completely draining the pool should be avoided if possible. That said, if you cannot get rid of a serious algae infestation, you may need to drain and acid wash your pool. 

Draining Your Pool Is Serious Business

Draining your pool is a big task, and no matter how large or small your pool is, I’ve found it helps immensely to have a proper water disposal strategy in place during the process. And, of course, you’ll also need the right permits to drain your pool, if applicable. Owning a pool comes with many responsibilities, one of which is to ensure you are always compliant. Though draining a pool may seem simple, it comes with many risks – not only to your pool but also to the environment. So, always ensure you follow the rules of your local municipality! Draining a pool (and refilling it) is expensive business, and the last thing you’ll want is to pay a fine and legal fees on top of that!

Do you have more questions or concerns about obtaining a permit to drain your pool? Drop me a message. I am always happy to help.

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