Guest Column - November 2004
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Think Before You Splash

By Cindy Guerra and Katie Schultz

Mechanical decisions

Whether the facility is a stand-alone or part of a renovation, there are mechanical decisions to be made on how to handle the water supply. One alternative recommended mainly for the stand-alone facility is called a flow-through system, in which water is drained directly to the storm sewer or the health department's recommended location. This system requires constant running water. Because the water supply is constant, the flow-through system eliminates the need for recirculation piping, filters, chemical treatment equipment and chemicals. Maintenance costs are significantly lower since there is less equipment to maintain and no chemicals to purchase. At the end of the day, the water supply is turned off, and water is completely drained away.

An alternative to the flow-through system is using the water for irrigation. Water from the flow-through system can be captured in a storage tank to be reused for watering nearby green space or another suitable purpose. Because it has not been chemically treated, it cannot be reused for human consumption.

Finally, the more costly, but most water-conserving choice for water use is recirculation. This system involves filters, chemicals and additional piping through which the water is constantly recirculated. The addition of recirculation piping, filters and chemical treatment equipment will cause the cost of construction and maintenance for the facility to be higher. However, the efficient use of water is a significant benefit, especially for communities seriously concerned with water conservation. Make sure you check with your local and state health departments to see which type of system may be required in your area.


While there are many technical decisions to make regarding a splash play area facility, regulations on splash play areas are limited. A professional design consultant specializing in aquatic facilities can verify state and local regulations during design and before construction of these facilities.

Spray features

Before the splash play area, spray features available were minimal and were generally used to enhance a traditional pool. Spray features have evolved into interactive pieces that entertain everyone, old to young. These sprays can be equipped with activators such as push-buttons, levers, valves, turn wheels and other interactive devices that allow the patron to control the flow from the feature. Additionally, controllers with timing or sequencing capabilities can activate sets of sprays or the entire splash play area in a timed sequence with or without an activator.

Properly selected features and a well-planned site can be an excellent addition to any recreation program. While swimming pools will always be a popular choice, the lower cost required for splash play area construction, as well as the ease of maintenance, makes this a popular alternative for many recreation facilities.

Cindy Guerra is project coordinator and Katie Schultz is a design consultant with Water's Edge Aquatic Design in Lenexa, Kan. Cindy can be reached at; Katie can be reached at