Everything in this world has a ripple effect. It's like when you cannonball into your pool - everyone's going to feel the splash.

Unfortunately for our summer plans, the COVID-19 pandemic had a ripple effect I never expected until I started seeing the headlines: a chlorine shortage.

CNBC recently published a lengthy report about the impact the pandemic had on pools last year, and a flaming monkey wrench that 2020 tossed in to make things even trickier.

Swimming pool service and chemicals and pool background
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Staycations Drove Up Chlorine Demand

According to CNBC's report, demand for chlorine skyrocketed last year as more families stayed home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are apparently about 5.2 million residential inground pools in the U.S., along with thousands of commercial pools and who knows how many above-ground pools, and as families prepared to spend the summer splashing around in their own backyards, they needed more chlorine to keep things clean.

Most people weren't hoarding chlorine the way they were hoarding toilet paper and cleaning supplies, but prices were starting to climb. Then Hurricane Laura happened.

close-up of flames from a fire rising
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A Fire Set the Entire Industry Back

So, demand was up and prices were increasing a bit. That's a standard thing you'd expect to see.

What wasn't expected was a fire that crippled one of the leading suppliers of chlorine tablets in America.

USA Today reports that the roof of Bio-Lab's manufacturing plant in Westlake, Louisiana was destroyed by a fire on August 27, 2020 after Hurricane Laura made landfall.

The good news is that nobody was killed or injured. The bad news is that the plant's chlorine gas supply leaked and operations were, as USA Today puts it, "hobbled".

Service Industry News reported that the fire burned for three days due to the challenges of reaching the plant in the aftermath of the hurricane, plus the chemicals involved.

According to CNBC, that left two domestic chlorine tablet manufacturers to meet the continued demand: Occidental Petroleum and Clearon Corp. Neither company commented on the situation.

Photo by Marina Khrapova on Unsplash
Photo by Marina Khrapova on Unsplash

Buckets and Buckets of Problems

Oh, and it gets more complicated!

Yahoo! Finance cites a Goldman Sachs survey which found that there's also a shortage of plastic buckets due to COVID-related manufacturing slow-downs, which has made it difficult for pool supply companies to obtain certain quantities of chlorine.

With all these issues stacked up, prices are up 37%, and could spike to 58% from June to August.

Family enjoying summer holidays in pool
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So, What Can Families Do?

The chlorine shortage doesn't mean you can't enjoy your pool this summer. As a consumer, you have the right to know it's happening so you can make the best purchasing and planning decisions.

That said, just buy a reasonable amount of chlorine for your pool size and type. If you're not sure what that is, do a little research online or contact a local pool cleaning company to get their advice.

Before you fill and prep your pool, think about when your family is most likely to use it. Will you be doing much swimming in May, or would it be better to wait until June when the kids are out of school? (You'll need to keep an eye on your city's water restrictions.) Will you be taking any long vacations in early Summer? Maybe wait until you get back to dive in.

CNBC has some advice too, like keeping your filtration and water circulation system in good shape, plus showering before getting into your pool and keeping pets out. (Sorry, Fido.)

They also recommend asking a local pool pro about chlorine alternatives.

Cute little Asian toddler boy child kicking feet in swimming costume wear swimming goggles use pool noodle and kickboard learn to swim at indoor pool
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There Are Alternatives to Chlorine, But They Can Be Pricey

CNBC's article recommends looking into a salt water system for your pool, which creates its own chlorine from salt in electrolysis.

They report that the process isn't difficult, but could be expensive due to, you guessed it, a rise in demand, plus a shortage of supplies as Texas families look to replace parts damaged in February's deep freeze.

Insider reports that salt water systems could pay off in the long run though, as they're gentler on your hair, skin, and eyes, and are better for folks with allergies and asthma.

UV and ozone systems exist as well, though they still require some chlorine to be effective.

Summer rocks!
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Give Your Pool a Break This Summer

If you want to ride out the chlorine shortage (and save on water and maintenance), consider some alternatives that involve getting out there and exploring other places to swim and cool off.

Check with your city's parks and recreation department to see if local splash pads and pools will be open this summer, and be sure to ask about their COVID-19 safety protocols.

According to their website, Summer Fun in Belton expects to open up on May 8 this year.

Down in Round Rock, the massive Kalahari resort offers America's largest indoor water park, along with fine dining, shopping, a spa, and other family activities. It'd be a great vacation spot this summer.

There's also the Great White Lodge in Grapevine, which offers a massive indoor water park, playgrounds, shopping, and even a Build-A-Bear. It looks like they're taking guest health and safety seriously, too.

Asian Family walking at beach with kids happy vacation concept
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Think Outside the Pool

Two of the best things about living in Central Texas are our beautiful lakes: Lake Belton and Stillhouse Hollow Lake.

There are parks at our lakes featuring picnic areas, pavilions, and campgrounds. There are beautiful places for swimming, fishing, kayaking, and hiking, so you can have all sorts of adventures. Just be sure to wear a life jacket when you're in the water, and make sure your kids wear them too. Always be on the lookout for boats and personal watercraft, as well.

You can also make a trip to the Texas coast to enjoy the beaches there and make a whole vacation of it. Think about renting a private cabin or AirBnb by the beach and leave the stress of the chlorine shortage (and everything else going on right now) behind you, losing yourself in the sound of the waves.

The chlorine shortage will undoubtedly put a dent in some people's plans, but it doesn't have to ruin your summer.

If you plan to use your pool, talk to an expert about how you can get the most out of the supplies at hand and keep your pool safe and clean.

Consider the alternatives out there and find creative ways to stay cool and have fun.

The worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us as more people are vaccinated, so there are ways of making it this summer a memorable one for all the right reasons.

Don't let the chlorine shortage bum you out.

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