Dear PoPville – Water Bottles Banned from DPR Pools?

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

Dear PoPville,

As of last week, it appears that DC Parks and Rec has banned patrons from bringing water bottles to all DC Pools. From what I understand, a DC health official shut down/fined Wilson Aquatics Center for allowing swimmers to have water bottles on the pool deck. They are arguing that allowing water bottles on the pool deck violates District of Columbia Register Vol. 55 No. 52 Part 1 Section 6403.4(f) (December 26, 2008).

The regulation basically prohibits “the consumption of food or beverages in areas other than the specifically designated eating areas that are separated from the swimming pool.” I’ve attached the regulation. [DC swimming pool regs – DCR vol 55 no 52 part 1 Dec. 2008] Relevant language on page 7, highlighted. I don’t think this regulations is currently being applied as intended.

As you can imagine, this ban on liquids is problematic for people training for swimming events, especially as many DPR facilities don’t have functioning drinking fountains. It will also become increasingly problematic, and a health hazard for everyone, as we move into the summer with increasing temperatures and the opening of the outdoor pools.

Marion Barry is the Council Chair over the committee that covers Parks and Rec. Here are the other Council members on the committee.

I think contacting Barry or other members of the Council could be helpful.

UPDATE: NBC4’s Tom Sherwood tweets:

“DC Recreation & public health dept say they will NOT ban water bottles at Wilson, other city pools.”

34 Comment

  • This is so crazy. You need to drink water when you’re working out, even when you’re swimming. It’s not like you can drink the pool water.

  • noooo where am i gonna keep my swimming vodka

  • This is why we can’t have nice things, DC.

  • Forget about the regulation you highlighted, how do they enforce the one a couple below it:

    (h) Requiring incontinent individuals to wear protective clothing…

    Do they test for incontinence before you can enter the pool?

  • If you ban drinking water, incontinence isn’t so much of a problem!

  • Typical idiotic, selective enforcement of the law, DC style.

  • The other day I could’ve sworn I saw some Mellow Yellow and a Baby Ruth bar in the pool.

  • I swim at Wilson Pool 4-5 days a week, and I was extremely surprised when they started enforcing this the weekend before last. I called the Health Department, who confirmed that this applies to all pools licensed in DC, public or not.

    The Health Department rep I spoke with said this is a nationally recommended practice for all pools (in other words, individual states/cities/whoever regulates pools can chose to adopt it or not). He also said that the city recognizes that it’s important to drink while swimming, so that’s why they require all pools to have water fountains. Because that’s totally the same thing as a water bottle.

    He also went off on how dangerous water bottles can be. For example, how do they know what’s in the bottle? Could be anything. Could be a bomb, for all this guy knows.

    • justinbc

      This was about to be my question exactly, whether it applies to private owned pools, like on apartment rooftops, or only DC publicly funded (and therefore regulated) pools. Very interesting interpretation.

    • It might be a nationally recommended practice, but I swim occasionally (haven’t in DC yet, though) and I have yet to encounter a community pool that enforced any kind of water bottle ban. I can see where you wouldn’t want a bunch of kids horsing around in the pool with water bottles, but as you point out, for those who are swimming laps for fitness or training, grabbing a quick swig from a water bottle at the top of your lane is entirely different than having to get out of the pool and go over to the water fountain.

      I haven’t been to Wilson, but I’ve thought about checking it out…is it all lap lanes, or is the pool also used for non-exercise (ie, splashing around and playing) purposes as well?

      • I’ve been to many pools, publicly- and privately-owned, and never saw a policy like this. In fact, I recall that many pool owners encouraged people to bring water bottles and drink plenty of water.

    • So, if all public and private pools in DC cannot allow poolside food/beverages… isn’t Vida Fitness’ Penthouse Pool Club completely illegal?

    • A bomb… Really? Geezy H. Christy! That HD rep needs to go fearmonger somewhere else. What a loser! If I was on the other end of that call, I would have totally called him out on saying some fearful B.S to a resident like that, trying to sell fear to justify policy based on unrelated events.

    • I bet you spoke with Rodney Taylor at the DOH, who told me the same exact thing about not knowing exactly what’s in the water bottle and that someone could dump a dangerous substance in the pool from a water bottle. He was being very serious when he said this.

  • Ha! Yeah, like this will actually be enforced. I have no doubt my BLLs will be making it public poolside this summer… Practicing discretion in a red solo, of course.

  • I am a US masters swimmer and have visited WAC 4-6 hours a week to train for open-water distance events since it opened in 2009. The new regulations are very dangerous and detrimental to athletes and rec. swimmers. If enforcement continues, I expect a petition will be organized. I hope that DPR will intervene on behalf of district residents and for their own liability. While the water bottle rule might be a RECOMMENDED practice, it certainly is not a BEST practice. Banning water bottles is even more dangerous for triathletes who are new to swim training or jump in the pool following vigorous cross training. I would encourage everyone to be careful and look out for one-another.

    • I am also a triathlete who swims at WAC (winter) and Hains Pt (summer) 3+ times per week.

      Both pools have water fountains – use them.

      • justinbc

        Water from water fountains not only tastes awful (very metallic), it’s also extremely unhygenic by comparison.

      • Water fountains are also a pain to use. At least for me (and I’m guessing I’m not the only one), as an adult who is swimming laps for exercise/training, following all pool safety and etiquette rules, and not acting in a disorderly or disruptive manner, I just want to be able to take a couple of quick sips from a water bottle that’s within arm’s reach between sets of laps. I don’t want to have to hoist myself out of the pool, possibly walk across to the other side of the facility depending on the water fountain locations, and potentially lose my lane just to take a 5-second swig of water.

        If lifeguards observe someone who *is* using their water bottle in a dangerous or disorderly way, or who’s dumping substances into the pool, they should intervene at that point. But I don’t think the safety concerns about water bottles outweighs the inconvenience to patrons in this particular situation.

  • Can the health department levy fines against against individuals who violate the rule?

    If so, this sounds like a nice little fundraiser for the HD and the District government.

    • At least as of last week, they did not have anything posted at Wilson about this. But lifeguards were actually taking people’s water bottles while we were in the pool and putting them in the lifeguard office. I thought my bottle had been stolen (which was just kind of gross), until I noticed a stash of water bottles sitting in the office with a lifeguard.

  • More stupid rules from DPR. I stopped using their sad little facilities a couple of years ago when they wouldn’t let people read the newspaper while lying in the sun at Francis pool. I spent many years as a lifeguard and pool manager and never heard any rule so pointless. Until this.

  • In a city with 95+ degree summers, that is insane and irresponsible. A lawsuit waiting to happen. They should be doing the opposite and handing out free water bottles to make sure everyone is safe and educate citizens on the need to stay hydrated in the worse of summer. .
    This reminds me of how the few outdoor (of course unshaded) DC wading pools for.babies and toddlers are open exclusively when it’s too sunny for babies and toddlers to even be safely outside per most pediatrician s’ recommendations. A petition went out for that and was signed by several hundred people and it was ignored.

  • What if you brought water in a pouch or bag? Would that be permitted?

  • I swim 3x a week at Marie Reed and they just started enforcing the same policy.

  • I signed the petition at and emailed the entire committee that oversees public parks ( Over 200 signatures on the petition in less than 24 hours. Keep it up, we can get this ban reversed. Good work, citizens.

  • Prince Of Petworth

    NBC4’s Tom Sherwood tweets:

    “DC Recreation & public health dept say they will NOT ban water bottles at Wilson, other city pools.”

    • However, DOH is doing a final review of / ruling on the regulation – and DPR will have to follow that ruling. So, the lifting of the ban is not necessarily permanent.

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