Drinking the pool

Gallons in an Olympic size swimming pool 

by josh orter

How long would it take to sip that up through a straw? Such were my deep thoughts while watching the mens 200m freestyle race at last summer's Olympics. The camera zoomed far out to reveal a full view of the aquatic monstrosity that is an Olympic-sized pool. It got me wondering. Exactly how many gallons of water are in there and what profoundly useless figures could be extrapolated and humanized from this gargantua? And so I set out to find and crunch the numbers least likely to be useful, but most likely to entertain. 

According to the London Aquatics Centre website the pool is 164 feet long by 82 feet wide. What surprised, and may make the pool appear especially enormous, is that it’s 9.84 feet deep; the minimum depth required to qualify as “Olympic-sized” is 6.7. A quick calculation on the Pennsylvania Dept. of something or other’s wastewater calculator put it at 988,492 gallons, just a few pumps shy of a magic million. The volume of a standard olympic sized pool is 666,000, making London's 48.4% more voluminous. 

With this number in hand, I got to work. 
 How many people could be crammed into the pool?
I really wanted to avoid calculating this one. Too many nebulous variables. Fortunately, some professors have already worked out an immensely useful “mosh-pit density” of one standing person per 2.7 square feet.  At 13,448 sq ft, the aquastrosity could fit 4,980 (extremely irritated) humans.


How much does the water weigh?   
This was a quickie. At 8.33 lbs per, the 988,492 gallons weigh 8,234,138 lbs. Or 4,117 tons. Impressive number though it may be, it's a just little too abstract for my tastes. So let’s convert it to subway cars, shall we? At 70,000 lbs per empty one, it’s 117 cars of the type used on New York's 4/5/6 line. Hooked up, this would form a train more than a mile long. This sounds ludicrous and you refuse to believe it. I totally understand, but unless the numbers have been totally mangled, it's true.

What if we wanted to fill it with Jell-O?
No crap here, we’re going for the real deal..Jell-O brand gelatin. One 3 oz package of Jell-O requires 2 cups of water. There are 16 cups to the gallon, so each gallon of Jello™ would take 8 boxes. 988,492 gallons x 8 boxes per gallon=  7,907,936 boxes

How much would that cost?
More than $6 million at the retail price. Let’s call it $.79 per box multiplied by 7,907,936. Total: $6,247,26

How many toilet flushes would it take to drain the pool? A low-consumption toilet uses uses 1.6 gallons and a 1980's-era toilet uses 3.5. So figure 2.5. 988,492 gallons works out to 395,396 flushes. But let’s wade a bit deeper, because you'll certainly want to know how long that'd take. My toilet took ten seconds to drain without counting refill time. That works out to 1,098 hours of continuous flushing, or 45.7 days. 

How many Americans would it take to use up that water in a day?
The national average indoor residential water use per day per person is 65 gallons. The London pool would provide for 15,207 Americans, not exactly the most water-sensitive people in the world. I’m guilty too; the sound of running water soothes my morning ritual.

All very interesting, but now the most critical calculation...

 How long would it take to drain the pool by straw?

 This required real-world testing by the author. It took an average of 5 seconds to suck up four ounces of water through a standard size straw. The sipping was vigorous. This works out to .8 oz per second or 48 oz per minute. At 128 oz. per gallon, it's a rate of 2.66 minutes a gallon. 988,492 pool gallons x 2.666 minutes = 2,635,319 minutes

Total time for the endeavor? 43,921 hours or 1,830 days. See you in 2018.