A pool chlorine shortage is about to hit the summer backyard pool season hard – here's what you can do

The pool chlorine shortage will affect millions of Americans this year, although some alternatives are possible

backyard pool with glass and wooden fences
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Covid has dealt yet another blow to this year's summer, with a pool chlorine shortage set to ruin summer for millions of households who were hoping to chill in the backyard pool on hot days. In fact, the shortage has already begun, with some suppliers only having enough stock left to last them another couple of weeks at most. 

What's behind the shortage, and does it mean you may as well give up on your backyard pool ideas this summer? 

Why is there a pool chlorine shortage?

large pool house in LA

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There are two main reasons. The first is unprecedented demand for pool chlorine that is the result of a pandemic boom in domestic swimming pools. There are some 5.2 million domestic pools in the US, and around 70 percent of them use chlorine tablets as disinfectant. The true number of pools is not known because above ground pools are not included in the statistic, only in-ground ones. Most Americans did not go on holiday last year, which has pushed up the use of chlorine to unprecedented levels. 

Then, a major fire erupted at one of the biggest chlorine-producing plants in the US, Louisiana's Bio Lab. The plant was forced to cease production and will not reopen until next year. 

How long will the shortage last?

glass fence surrounding waterfront pool

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With Bio Lab out of action until 2022, and only two other chlorine plants operational, it is unlikely the chlorine shortage will end until next year. However, this doesn't mean that there's no chlorine available anywhere, although the situation does vary from state to state and even between counties. Some areas have imposed quotas, which means you're only able to buy a limited amount of chlorine. Expect to pay more , too – nearly double the regular price per bucket. 

The most important thing, though, is to resist the temptation to stock up. Pool water chemistry expert Rudy Stankowitz told USA Today that 'the severity of the shortage is going to be directly related to people buying in reasonable quantities.' Most people don't need more than one bucket of chlorine tablets per season, so you should be fine if you just get that amount. 

Are there alternatives for disinfecting my pool this summer?

hedge behind backyard pool

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It may be possible to convert your pool to a saltwater pool. Saltwater pools do not require you to buy chlorine because they generate their own. The conversion will cost you (think $500 to $2,500 for the equipment and installation), and many places are now reporting shortages of saltwater systems. If you were planning another project this summer, looking at pool house ideas or pool fence ideas, for example, you may not have the budget for converting your pool to a saltwater pool.

There are other methods for disinfecting swimming pools – the most popular ones use ozone, UV rays, silver, or copper. It's important to say that all of these filtration systems still use chlorine, just less of it than conventional pools. Not using chlorine at all will put you at risk of bacterial infection and/or serious illness. If you're thinking of switching to a different pool disinfecting method, you should always consult a pool professional. 

Anna Cottrell
Anna Cottrell

Anna's background is in academic research – she is the author of London Writing of the 1930s, published by Edinburgh University Press. She is a keen urban gardener and has an impressive collection of house plants.