When the summer heat hits, even a small inflatable wading pool can offer enough cool water for a refreshing backyard soak. Credit: Sarah Walker Caron / BDN

On warm summer days, it’s a relief to take a dip in a pool. But this summer is shaping up to be different than previous ones, with some public pools closed for the season and some folks avoiding busy places.

Fortunately, there are some easy, temporary options available for having a pool in your own yard — and they won’t cost a lot or be a complicated, time-consuming thing to have.

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First, it’s essentially to make sure you have the right permissions for a pool.

“You should always check local ordinances and zoning regulations,” said Jeff Wallace, director of code enforcement for Bangor. “And if you live in a rental situation, it’s a good idea to check with the property owner first.”

In Bangor, for example, above ground pools are allowed in any area zoned residential, but a $42 permit from the city is required before any pool is set up, regardless of size. Federal laws also require that any pool 18-inches or more deep must have a fence at least 48-inches tall around it.

“Technically in Bangor you would need a permit and a fence for a small wading pool,” Wallace said. “But obviously we are not going to be out there looking for small wading pools in people’s yards.”

The next step is to decide what size, depth and type of pool is going to work for your space and swimming needs. These days there are a lot of traditional and not-so-traditional options.

Wading pools

If the goal of an above-ground pool is to simply cool off on a hot day, a small child’s plastic or inflatable wading pool available in the outdoors sections of stores will do the trick.

Small, easily moved and quickly filled with water from a hose, these small pools can accommodate several small children or one or two adults at a time. They come in a variety of sizes. Some are molded plastic, others are inflatable and still others are plastic that forms the pool shape when you add the water.

The smallest kiddie pool holds around 10 gallons of water at a depth of between 9 inches and a foot. Larger rectangular inflatable pools can measure as much as 8-feet-by-5-feet and hold around 500 gallons. A pool that size may have depths of around a foot and a half.

Wading pools may not hold enough water to do laps in, but they do hold enough water to let you cool down. Plus, there are some real advantages to wading pools starting with the low cost and ease of set up.

Stock tanks

Galvanized metal stock tanks — large containers used to provide water for livestock — have become quite trendy as backyard, above ground pools. The most common size is an 8-foot diameter tank with a depth of two feet. These cost around $350 and can be found at most farm supply stores. Like the kiddie wading pools, a stock tank pool is not for swimming, but it’s perfect for two adults to sit and submerge in cool water up to their necks.

Because they are made of metal, a stock tank pool that gets a lot of direct sunlight during the day can heat up, so if you are concerned about your pool water feeling more like bath water, you can set it up under a tree for shade or build a simple shed style roof over it.

Truck beds

Lining the bed of a pickup truck with a waterproof tarp and filling it with water may seem like the ultimate in portable pools, but suspensions in pickup trucks were never made to handle the weight of all the water in their beds.

Instead of ruining your vehicle, if you like the idea of a truck bed pool, find a discarded truck or just the bed, line it with the tarp, fill it with water and you are good to go. As an added bonus, the wheel well ledges found in many truck bed models make great built-in benches.

Setting up your pool

Regardless of size, materials or type, before setting any pool up, a bit of site selection and some minor groundwork may be required.

Level ground is essential for pool placement — even small wading pools set down on sloped ground could end up with far more water on one side than the other. That issue is easily solved by choosing a different location in the yard. For larger pools uneven terrain can be leveled off by simply scooping out an area with a hand shovel. If the area is rocky, sand or loam can also be brought in to smooth things out.

Before placing your pool down, take time to scour your site for any debris that could puncture or damage the bottom of the pool like rocks, sticks or glass, Wallace said. Also, avoiding being under trees that can shed leaves or other detritus into the water. When the pool is drained, make sure the water won’t flow anywhere it’s not wanted, like a basement or storage shed.

Proximity to a reliable source of water is also helpful. Simply connecting a hose to an outdoor spigot and running to the pool is the easiest solution, though it can take a bit of time. Filling a small wading pool can take a matter of minutes but something like a stock tank takes close to an hour.

Wallace said that in Bangor there is no limit on how much water a person who draws water from the city’s supply can use to fill a pool, but it could certainly have an impact on their monthly water bill based on increased consumption.

Caring for your pool

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, small inflatable pools have been connected to something called “recreational water illnesses,” or RWIs. These are gastrointestinal illnesses like E. coli or Cryptosporidium carried by germs lurking in contaminated recreational water.

Using disinfectants like chlorine is not practical in small wading pools because it’s almost impossible to determine the correct dose or to properly monitor whether the correct amount of chlorine stays in the water at all times.

As an alternative, the CDC recommends draining or emptying the pool after each use. Using a disinfectant, clean the pool and allow it to dry. Once it is completely dry, leave it in the sun for at least four hours.

Larger inflatable or plastic pools or a pool made from a stock tank or truck bed which can’t be emptied daily should be outfitted with pool filters and treated with the appropriate disinfectant system for their size and depth.

Importantly, according to the CDC, don’t let anyone who appears ill in any way swim or play in your pool.

In the end it comes down to how much time, effort and money you want to put into having your very own backyard pool. Then it’s just a matter of filling it with water, grabbing some cool drinks and settling in for a lovely cool-down soaking.

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Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.