DUBAI // Jacob Mathew was so fed up with the quality of the swimming pool in his building that he moved.
"The management had promised it would improve the pool but never delivered," said the father of two who now lives in Oud Metha. "I was unsatisfied so we decided to move."
His children use the pool at least twice a week. "I feel quite comfortable and I've noticed the water is cleaned every Saturday," he said.
"There are safety guidelines posted around and the lifeguard on duty ensures we follow them."
Public health authorities in Dubai have warned that public pool operators who fail to maintain quality and safety standards can be fined up to Dh20,000.
When it comes to water quality, public pool operators must record the readings of chlorine, pH and temperature levels daily.
Samples of calcium hardness, alkalinity and cyanuric acid should be checked every 15 days. Samples of water to test for microbiological parameters must be sent to a lab every two months.
"The building management needs to maintain a recording system and regularly conduct water quality tests," said Sultan Al Suwaidi, head of the Public Safety department at Dubai Municipality.
"They have to maintain the right chlorine and pH levels and should send their lab test results to the municipality."
Residents of buildings and complexes with pools should constantly be questioning the quality of water, experts warn.
"Pools can look clean but the reality is there may be all sorts of germs lurking inside them," said Kumail Somji, owner of MAK Pools, a pool maintenance company in Dubai. "It all starts with hiring a bad service provider and using cheap grade chemicals that end up making the water corrosive," said Mr Somji.
Microbiological lab tests conducted by his company at private and public pools in the New Dubai area last year revealed the lack of knowledge of residents concerning water safety.
Among the bacteria his team found breeding in unchecked water were the potentially fatal Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Coliform bacteria - a sure sign that faecal pathogens are present in the water.
Asif Raza, general manager of Zodiac Pools, said that "there should be strict monitoring of whether swimmers take a shower before diving in".
He said suntan oil build-up should be regularly checked in outdoor pools. "Staff should also educate children about not [urinating] inside the pool as it can be toxic when it reacts with chlorine."
Mr Somji warned that the cleaning process itself can become a danger to swimmers if harmful or weak chemicals are used. These can cause asthma, diarrhoea and other intestinal infections, he said.
Additionally, lifeguards at public pools must not be tasked with other activities, the Municipality has said.
Sultan Al Suwaidi, head of the public safety department, said building management often broke this rule.
"Lifeguards should be fully qualified and should not be assigned to other work. He should only be responsible for ensuring the safety of swimmers," he said. "Pools in buildings must also be locked when not in use so there are no mishaps."
Lifeguards need to be trained in CPR and approved lifesaving techniques. Resuscitation equipment and a first-aid kit must be available.
If children's pools are attached to main pools, barricades have to be in place to prevent youngsters from straying into the deep end. Pools should also be clear of obstacles.
Only anticorrosive accessories can be used, while pools open at night must be illuminated by underwater or overhead lighting. There must also be clear signboards with instructions in English and Arabic.