Phosphates: The Hidden Enemy and The Best Plan of Attack


A unique understanding of each pool and a customized approach to the water chemistry is critical to maintaining a healthy and safe swimming environment. Whether it be from plant materials around the pool, fertilizers drifting from golf courses, or even being in close proximity to a fire or construction site, pool water chemistry can be affected drastically from outside sources.

Phosphates for example can wreak havoc on a pool in a very short amount of time when not controlled and/or removed. They are mostly inorganic materials that have the potential to feed and encourage algae growth in your swimming pool, as well as cloud your water. Algae needs sun, water, air, and a food source such as nitrates and phosphates to flourish. That is why a swimming pool is the perfect environment for algae to bloom!


But where are the phosphates coming from? Your pool is in an open environment subject to sun, water from rain, air, and algae food that can be introduced in many ways. These phosphates are present in your landscaping and fertilizer materials that can be introduced through wind and water run-off by means of rain or your own backyard watering efforts. Those phosphates can be deposited from environmental debris that enters in pool in the form of leaves and tree droppings. Also, you may be unknowingly adding phosphates to your water if you use any chemicals that contain phosphoric acid or phosphorus materials, or if your fill water has phosphates in it (as many towns are now using them).


Pools on or near golf courses can be some of the most difficult to maintain if phosphate levels are not continually monitored and controlled. Golf courses require regular applications of fertilizer to keep them in optimal condition. Unfortunately, the chemicals used to keep the course in optimal playing condition (phosphorous, nitrogen, iron, etc.) can also turn your nice blue pool to a pretty shade of green, as well. In some drastic cases, this can happen overnight. The fertilizers are often blown into the pool by wind drift and can also be washed into the pool through heavy rain runoff. It's nearly impossible to keep them out of the pool, therefore, they have to be removed periodically when levels become elevated.


In order to rid your pool of phosphates, you will need to use a phosphate removing chemical. This chemical will not kill algae; it is simply a phosphate removal system.


The best way to prevent against algae and phosphate growth is to perform regular pool maintenance. Brushing regularly is key to preventing algae. Many people rely on their pool professional to perform this once weekly service, but when you have high phosphate levels and lots of sun, algae can quickly and easily develop. So in between your weekly visits, you may want to consider joining in on the efforts to keep your pool algae free.


You will also want to remove debris such as leaves, sticks, bugs, etc. as soon as possible. Emptying out skimmer baskets on a regular basis will keep your pool free of debris better. It will improve water circulation helping maintain a balanced environment.


You could also inform your landscaper or whoever takes care of your lawn and landscaping to take special care around the pool to not deposit the waste into the pool. If you are cleaning up your surrounding deck areas, also be sure not to spray or brush deck debris into or toward the pool. Pressure washing into your pool instead of away from your pool can quickly create an ugly situation in the heat of summer.


Small steps on your part can help make certain your pool stays phosphate free and crystal clear all year round!