Feature Article - November 2012
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Maintenance & Operations: Spraygrounds

Playing With Water
Sprayground Operations

By Tammy York


Water Quality

"Clients often think that they can use their existing filtration system, but generally the regulations for filtration for a spray park are different from a pool because you have a lot of trafficking in and out from the kids, and you might have animals during the nighttime," said Tracey.

There are two choices on water sources for a water playground. The greenest is to recirculate the water. The other is called a domestic system, also referred to as a single path. This system pulls water from the water provider, the water sprays through the features of the water playground, and drains to a collection pond or underground holding tanks. From there, reenters the atmosphere through evaporation or the aquifer. Most ponds will not have the capacity to handle the amount of water coming off of the water playground and overflows will occur and go to a stormwater outlet.

The water held in the underground tanks can be used to irrigate the surrounding landscapes. What most people fail to realize, or simply don't know, is that an average water playground will produce about 40,000 to 50,000 gallons a day. That is a lot of water to capture and reuse in a day, every day of the week.

Sprayground element providers across the board warn that while the domestic water system is cheaper on the front end than a recirculating system, the costs can quickly add up when you factor in the expense of water over the life of the system. "The first and foremost important green decision is to analyze the actual water usage, which might be 10 to 15 million gallons during the summer time, and at .002 cents a gallon that is $30,000 dollars a year in water," said Stoks.

"If the size warrants reusing the water or the area has water restrictions, then a recirculating system that cleans and sanitizes the water needs to be installed," Rotschild said.

Plus, as people become more conscious of water usage there is a growing trend away from single flow use and to a system that filters and sanitizes the water before recirculating it through the water playground features.

"Environmentally you really should recirculate the water because water is a precious commodity," said Tracey. "You can put a controller on the facilities, which limits the amount of water used. That is one way of limiting the water usage."

As a sprayground manager, you likely want to conserve the amount of energy and water expended. For example, if there is no one playing in an area you wouldn't want the water flowing. By adding controllers, you can manage the system activation by motion sensors or user activations.

Motion sensors detect motion and allow the water to flow into the feature for a set amount of time. User-activated typically feature a button that the children depress, which allows for the water to flow from the water element for a set amount of time.

"The customer has a lot of control over how much water is used," Thomas said. There is also the option of water-conserving nozzles that reduce the amount of water used without diminishing the effect.

"Water cannons and tipping buckets don't use that much water and are big structure for visual impact," said Tracey. Finer spray nozzles and ground jets set at lower levels so they don't spray as high will result in less water usage.

Water playgrounds can also use a limiter on how many gallons of water per minute is being used at any given time. This means that when the activation devices are started, only some devices that will work at one time.

Another way to reduce water flow and to keep kids moving about the water playground is the sequencer. This sequences the water flow through the water playground to create water venues that have a few moments of water flow before the water flow moves to the next area.

"It is a small computer that runs a solenoid valve that opens and closes elements at certain times so you don't have everything on at once. It can be quite animated so you can make it fun while you are also limiting the amount of water used," said Tracey. "Kids love to turn things on and they will line up behind activation posts." The system will run for a set time period and stop automatically.