The internet is all a buzz over “chlorine free pools”. Do they exist? Can you have one? The short answer is yes…and no (at least if you operate a commercial pool).
There is a common misconception that certain types of sanitation systems are “chlorine free”, but commercially this just isn’t the case. There are plenty of products in the commercial market that aid in sanitation and oxidation (like UV & Ozone), however all of these products are designed to work in tandem with chlorine to enhance its effects, not replace it. Likewise, there are products like Chlorine Generators (often referred to as “Salt Systems”) that sound chlorine free, but in reality are just producing the same base compounds used by all types of chlorine for sanitation.
To truly replace chlorine, a product must not only keep the water clean and clear, it must also have the same ability (or better) to sanitize the water. This requires creating a measurable residual, achieving similar kill times for common bacteria and pathogens in pools, and above all it must be safe to swim in once diluted into the pool water. There are products available in the U.S. that claim to sanitize water without a drop of chlorine, but none have yet passed all of these tests and been approved for commercial use. (Residential regulations are not the same as commercial)
Chlorine free pools do exist throughout the world, both for both commercial and residential use. There are different products, different systems and different methodologies but the result is the same – safe, clean water to swim in, without the use of chlorine. Some of these products are not authorized in the US, and many areas of the world have vastly different regulations (or lack thereof) than ours.
Many of you may ask yourselves “If it’s already being done, why can’t we do it?” Laws and regulations in the U.S., in regard to commercial pools, are based on chlorine/bromine. All of the states, counties, and in some cases, cities, manage their own regulations on how commercial pools have to be operated, but all are required to maintain a chlorine (or bromine) residual. So even if/when we have a non-chlorine product that meets all of the above criteria, it will take some take to become accepted across the board and legal to use in commercial swimming pools.
The fact is that at this time, and for the near future at least, any commercial pool that has its doors open and allows swimmers in the water must use chlorine/bromine and must maintain them at levels outlined in the local Regulatory Codes. If you hear of a commercial pool that is “chlorine free” either somebody is confused, or they are out of compliance.