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

Just Add Water

By Kelli Anderson


The visual impact of an aquatic center—both outside and inside—acts much like the appetizer before a good meal. It builds the anticipation for the rest of the patron's experience. When so much energy, time and money go into creating an aquatic facility, it makes sense that keeping it in top form becomes a top priority.

Maintenance strategies, especially proactive ones, will not only save the day but save money in the long run, as well. For some managers, proactive planning is a natural byproduct of a detail-oriented personality. For others, it is a matter of sheer discipline.


When the Great Wolf Lodge in Williamsburg, Va., opened its doors for the first time to its expectant public this past April, planners made sure they got at least two things right: a great HVAC system to provide clean, fresh air and an efficient, effective filtration system to provide clean and clear water.

"The most important thing is to have a properly designed system to give crystal clear water," says Chris Stuart, director of aquatics and a 29-year-veteran in the industry. "The second most important factor is efficiency since water is now a precious commodity. We now have the best system I've ever had."

Thanks to the ongoing perfecting of filtration materials, systems like the one installed by Great Wolf Lodge are using more cost-efficient and environmentally safer systems. Sand and diatomaceous earth (DE) filters, longtime industry standards, are now joined by new comers like biodegradable DE products and zeolite.

With the many choices of filtration materials, system designs and sizes, the best place for any aquatic center project to start is with professional input from those who make it their business to know—pool consultants. When a system can potentially last upward of 40 years or more, time and money invested in the design process will be rewarded with long-term performance, ease of operation and life-cycle costs.

An 8-to-10-year replacement is an expensive and unnecessary result you want to avoid. Be sure to verify that the ultimate choice of a filtration system currently is listed for public pool use by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).

When selecting the right system, many factors come into play including bather load, pool type, temperature, size and location. These variables will determine the size of the system and the rate of turnover needed to keep water clean, clear and safe for users. Most states have guidelines for turnover rates, but few have guidelines strict enough to satisfy responsible aquatic managers.

"With waterparks—especially indoors—we exceed turnover rates," Stuart says. "For us, it's one hour and our kiddie pools are every 20 minutes. In many states it's six hours, but with waterborne pathogens, we need to exceed that."

The sparkling results say it all.