How many times have we seen the comparison? A volume of liquid of some kind is expressed in the number of Olympic-size swimming pools it would fill. Over the years some of the examples I’ve personally read or heard include the amount of guacamole consumed on Super Bowl Sunday, tears cried after JFK was assassinated and beer quaffed during Oktoberfest. Without revisiting those calculations, suffice to say in each case, it was a lot of pools.

Most recently, a similar nugget crossed my digital transom about fuel consumed during the launch of NASA’s newly developed Space Launch System. According to a report from UK’s The Register, the SLS’s mighty RS-25 booster rockets consume 1.215 Olympic-size pools during its 500-plus second burn at lift off.

That thunderous factoid begs the question, how much volume does an Olympic pool actually contain? Given how the example is so common, only seems reasonable those of us in the pool industry should be able to answer that question should the need arise.

The good news is that there does appear to be a ready consensus as to the number, at least according to multiple online sources.  Here’s how it breaks down: an Olympic-size pool measures 50 meters long, 25 meters wide, at a minimum depth of 2 meters. The resulting equation works out as 25m x 50m x 2m = 2,500m3; 1L = 0.001m3 so 2,500 x 1000 = 2,500,000L or 660,430 gallons of water. (There are certainly other equations that express it differently, but the result is approximately the same.) 

With the actual number in mind I propose that a new nomenclature be established reflecting this unit of measurement: 661,000 gallons (rounding up) going forth shall be known as an “O-sp” or if you want to sound a bit more whimsical, perhaps simply an “Oly.”

Okay, maybe that’s a reach, but for purposes of future discussions, at least we could probably figure out how many Olympic pools would be filled by eggnog consumed during the Christmas season in the U.S., or how much it takes to fill one “Oly” during a time of drought!    

Eric Herman is Senior Editor of AQUA Magazine.