Feature Article - February 2006
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Special Supplement: A Complete Guide to Aquatic Centers

Just Add Water

By Kelli Anderson


For aquatic options in steamy climates like Florida, conserving water isn't just about being eco-conscious—it's also about saving money. As water becomes more of a precious resource, aquatic facilities and the water recreation industry in general are eager to find ways to offer wet entertainment without letting water—and money—go down the drain.

Splash play areas, one would think, would be a great way to use a little water for a lot of fun. However, as myopic creatures that often look at the initial price tag and not the big picture, some splash play areas continue to be installed with potable systems—systems that let water go to waste in an effort to save a little money upfront on a filtration system.

It can be a big mistake on several counts.

"People aren't informed," says Tom Lilly, an employee of a splash play component manufacturer. "Potable water systems are a safety/sanitation issue, and they restrict water flow."

Recirculated systems conserve water by recycling it through the splash play area, and they filter and sanitize it. Potable systems, just like garden hoses mothers now warn their children not to drink from, contain biofilms inside municipal plumbing that then pour out onto the children who play in them.

Furthermore, potable systems become a killjoy by restricting the amount of flow available to splash play features, creating an anemic shower instead of the drenching kids crave.

"No kid wants to be spit on," Lilly reasons. "They want to be doused. Kids are there to be soaked."

For Lion Country Safari in Loxahatachee, Fla., adding a splash play area with a recirculating system to its park last year was part of its successful strategy to attract more visitors.

Recirculated water systems are just one of the ways those in the water recreation industry are cutting down on waste and saving big bucks.

Here are a few more ideas that might work for you:

  • Xeroscaping—landscape your aquatic facility using native plants that require little water or are drought-resistant.
  • Use reclaimed water to irrigate your landscape.
  • Serve chilled bottled water, juice or soft drinks instead of beverages over ice.
  • Install splashguards to prevent water loss around water attractions.
  • Irrigate at night to reduce water loss from evaporation.
  • Irrigate using a satellite system that factors rainfall into the watering equation to reduce expensive watering redundancy.
  • Install motion-sensor faucets in restrooms to eliminate wasteful water use.
  • Install coin-operated showers but be sure to include polite signage explaining the environmental importance of conserving water. Such explanations to justify the coin-system usually result in an appreciative user.