Maintain a school pool

Find information about pool maintenance, water testing, capital work and more.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Boards
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Property Manager

Boards are the entity responsible for the day-to-day running of the school, and therefore also responsible for the maintenance of the school pool. There are water quality standards and testing standards you must meet, which are detailed below.

Funding pool maintenance

The funding you use to maintain your school pool depends on whether it's a capital work or operational maintenance.

Read more about the difference between capital and maintenance costs under 'Discuss the Budget' section of your 10 Year Property Plan (10YPP)

10YPP Step 3: Consider inputs at the 10YPP initiation meeting

Operational maintenance

Schools with pools receive operational funding to maintain their pool as part of their Property Maintenance Grant (PMG).

It's important that needs for PMG funding are balanced so that pools can be maintained.

Use operational funding for:

  • pool chemicals
  • water charges
  • heating charges
  • water testing charges
  • the salary and training of the person responsible for maintaining pool hygiene and maintenance, such as the caretaker (ground staff get $4.40 per day for looking after a pool)
  • painting the pool and surrounds
  • repairing fences
  • repairing and servicing the filtration plant
  • caring for ancillary buildings like changing rooms, storage sheds and roofing structures
  • repairing pool covers.

This funding is calculated on the actual square metres of the pool.

Operational funding for heat, light, and water doesn’t cover costs of running a pool outside school hours.

Manage water quality

School pools must meet all the requirements of the New Zealand Standard NZS 5826:2010 'Pool water quality'(external link).

You can purchase the standard from the NZ Standards website. The Standard aims to maintain safe levels of chemicals and microbiological substances in pool water.

Water testing

A New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) qualified person must have the management of the pool’s water quality under their continuous technical supervision. This person must be readily available when the pool is operating. This doesn’t mean the qualified person must be at the pool at all times, just available if needed. If they're not available, the pool can't be used.

You must arrange for monthly microbiological monitoring of the pool water. For this testing, pool water samples are sent to laboratories that specialise in water treatment.

Contact your local council to find out about environmental health testing services.

Qualify as a water quality tester

Unit Standard 20046 is the recommended minimum training to meet NZS 5826:2010 'Pool water quality'. It has been designed for school caretakers. A number of training providers offer training in the appropriate unit standards. Most courses are 1 or 2 days. We suggest you cluster with other schools to arrange training.

To meet the NZS 5826:2010 'Pool water quality' standards(external link):

Avoid overuse of the pool

  • Overusing a pool degrades water quality.
  • Water quality also degrades when chlorine is lost through high ultraviolet levels on a hot day.
  • The Standard sets out the required levels of pool chemicals.

Manage faecal contamination

  • Act quickly to remove faeces that get into the pool, or treat the water if someone with diarrhoea uses it.

Either event can introduce infectious bacteria such as giardia or cryptosporidium into pool water.

Test and monitor

A qualified person must test your pool water 3 times a day (usually before school, at lunchtime and after school). The person may be a caretaker, or someone from your local council. Refer to the guidance above about qualifications and training.

This test is to check:

  • pH
  • alkalinity
  • calcium hardness
  • chlorine level
  • features that make up the pool chemistry.

Filter the water

  • The filtration system must be able to cope with the treatment regime in the Standard.
  • The Standard recommends a 2-hour water turnover rate.
  • If your current filtration system can't do this, you need to upgrade your filtration system.
  • Check with the manufacturer to find out about the best method of cleaning your filtration system.

Safely handle chemicals

You must have systems in place for safely handling and storing potentially unstable and explosive pool chemicals. See:Hazardous substances on school sites

Appendix A: Handling of swimming pool chemicals 

Agencies like the Ministry of Health and Worksafe NZ may test the swimming pool water quality on occasion to confirm that you're fulfilling your obligations.

Trees around swimming pools

Trees can be a health and safety hazard around a swimming pool.

Remove trees close to the swimming pool to:

  • prevent leaves and branches falling in and contaminating the water, and
  • prevent people from trying to jump from the tree into the pool.

Drain a swimming pool

Pool water contains chemicals that can harm the environment.

To help reduce the need to discharge your pool water:

  • keep the water at a proper chemical balance all year around — this means the water will stay cleaner for longer and won’t need to be emptied as often
  • look for ways to reduce the amount of water that’s discharged by recycling the water.

1. Discharge pool water to a sewerage system

Wherever possible, discharge your pool water to the municipal sewer. The sewerage system will treat the water.

Check with your local council about the amount of water you can discharge.

2. Discharge pool water onto land

If you can't discharge the water into the sewerage system, the next best option is to discharge it onto land.

To minimise any harmful effects:

  • leave the pool water for 1 week without adding chemicals before emptying it
  • don’t discharge water onto playing fields if the land is unstable and prone to slips
  • don’t discharge water where it will flow into storm water systems or waterways
  • make sure it doesn’t flow onto neighbouring properties
  • spread the water onto a large area so it doesn’t pool
  • make sure the pool water is at air temperature before discharging it.

3. Discharge into a waterway or a storm water system

If there's no other option, you may need to discharge your pool water into a waterway or a storm water system.

TO minimise any harmful effects:

  • wait at least 2 weeks since you last added chemicals
  • add a de-chlorinator to help remove chlorine
  • have the water tested by a professional to make sure the chlorine concentration is less than 0.5ppm and the copper level is less than 0.2ppm
  • make sure the pool water is at air temperature before discharging it
  • empty the water slowly so it can be absorbed more easily into the waterway or storm water system
  • ensure the discharge doesn’t cause erosion or scouring, for example to river banks
  • don't empty the pool when it’s raining as it could cause flooding.

Save energy

Heating a swimming pool can use around 50% of your energy use.

Pool covers minimise evaporation and reduce the heating energy required by as much as 70%.

To be effective, they need to be maintained in good condition and used consistently, for example at the end of each school day, and on weekends and holidays.

Insulating indoor pool buildings can also help to maintain water temperatures.

Capital work

Capital work will improve the value of an asset.

It may involve:

  • resurfacing the pool
  • major upgrading of fences and ancillary buildings
  • building new plant and facilities.

Pay for the capital maintenance work using either board funding or 5 Year Agreement (5YA) funding.

A swimming pool upgrade is generally a priority 4 project.

Refer to your 10YPP for information about funding priorities, under the 'Consider spending priorities for your 10YPP' heading.

You must include any capital work planned for your pool in your 10YPP.

Pools at the end of their economic life

We won't usually agree to a 10YPP that includes capital work to upgrade a pool that's come to the end of its economic life.

We might make an exception based on your individual circumstances such as:

  • extreme geographical remoteness
  • how close you are to other school pools or local authority pools.

Contact your local Ministry office for more information about applying for an exemption to upgrade an older pool.

Repair damage

Swimming pools are not an entitlement under the School Property Guide (SPG). For this reason, the Ministry’s School Building Insurance Funding Programme doesn't cover damage to swimming pools, their surrounds or associated facilities.

If your swimming pool is damaged, you must pay for repairs using board funding, PMG or 5YA, depending on the type and extent of the damage. If you don't have enough funding for this, other Ministry funds may be available.

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