Olsson produces 60,000 to 70,000 tonnes of salt a year, for pool salt, food stock and table salt. Other big players include Cheethams Salt.
Mr Dwyer predicted it would take another three weeks for salt producers to meet demand from pool shops from Bundaberg to Wollongong, but other industry experts aren’t as optimistic and predict it could be two to three months.
If there is another wet La Nina weather system next summer, the problem could return later this year. Salt is too expensive to import from overseas.
In the past two weeks, disillusioned pool owners in Queensland and NSW have been frantically visiting pool shops, only to find shelves cleaned out.
Some pool stores have resorted to a four bag limit on salt – which normally costs about $15 a bag – similar to supermarkets limits on toilet paper during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
A truckload of pool salt turned up at a Bunnings store in Brisbane on Thursday. All 240 bags were gone within an hour.
There are about 1.2 million pools in Australia and about 850,000 of them are in NSW and Queensland. About 70 per cent of them are salt water pools where salt crystals dissolve into sodium chloride which then produces chlorine to keep it clean and safe.
Swimming Pool and Spa Association chief executive Lindsay McGrath said an explosion in demand for pools during the COVID-19 pandemic – as Australians were trapped at home and couldn’t travel overseas – has put even more pressure on demand for salt and other pool chemicals.
“With the recent weather event, there has never been a bigger shortage in the marketplace,” he said.
Normally, there is 25,000 to 30,000 pools built each year, but there have been 40,000 a year built over the past two years. There is now a two-year wait on building a new pool.
Poolwerx chief executive John O’Brien predicted the pool salt shortage could last for a few more months. Supplied
Poolwerx chief executive John O’Brien – who runs 130 stores across Australia and New Zealand – said the current salt shortage was “way worse” than after the 2011 Queensland floods.
“The problem is not going away anytime soon. Salt supply levels are not going to return to normal levels for two months given the La Nina conditions look like continuing,” he said.
Mr O’Brien said Poolwerx had tried to keep ahead of the problem by expanding from one to three salt suppliers and storing 100 pallets of salt in their warehouses in Brisbane but they were still affected by the heavy rain and flooding.
But salt pool owners don’t fret. Mr O’Brien said there were salt alternatives such as chlorine replacements which can be used to keep your pool more blue than green.