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A shortage of lifeguards could force half of all public swimming pools in the United States to close or limit opening hours

As kids swim in Los Angeles, Chicago opens its pools, and thousands flock to Florida beaches, it’s clear that Americans just want to be in the water as summer approaches.

However, a shortage of lifeguards threatens all kinds of summer fun.

This isn’t the first year that the demand for lifeguards has outpaced the supply, but across the country, states and municipalities are facing the worst shortages ever. In New York City, even a 9% wage increase and sign-on bonus haven’t convinced people to take the job, leaving the city with only a third of the lifesavers it needs.

Across the country, about half of the country’s 309,000 public swimming pools will be forced to close their doors or reduce hours, according to the American Lifeguard Association.

In Colorado, a series of government grants are correcting the problem. Jen Spettel of the Johnstown, Colorado YMCA said her pool has taken in just over $10,000, which will be used to find new lifeguards.

“It’s going to help us train and rehabilitate our lifeguards and lifeguards coming in, and it’s also going to help us train our lifeguard trainers. And that’s a big part of this, is training more staff to teach more rangers,” Spitel said. “For smaller communities, there are fewer people here. Attracting entry-level lifeguards is more difficult, we need more resources.”

Wyatt Werneth, a spokesman for the American Lifeguard Association, which patrols Florida beaches, told CBS News that low salaries, a lack of qualified applicants and rigorous testing make it difficult to hire lifeguards.

“It’s more than just a summer job,” said Werneth. “Rescuers have the unique advantage of letting people know there is danger and walking away from that danger.”

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