Feature Article - October 2007
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Making Waves

Big Waterpark Trends Hit Smaller Facilities

By Emily Tipping

Make it Sustainable

Green buildings and sustainability are major trends in parks and recreation facilities across the country, and aquatic facilities are no exception.

"The specific goals are to reduce consumption of natural resources," said Melinda Kempfer, business development coordinator for Water Technology Inc., which has designed Silver and Gold LEED-certified aquatic facilities across the country. "One way we do this is to improve the efficiency of the HVAC system, for example with solar-heat water-heating systems. We did a recent recreation center where the water is pumped through a solar unit prior to being heated by the boilers, which reduced natural gas consumption by more than 50 percent. They're operating much more efficiently now."

Another goal, Kempfer said, is to reduce water usage. Water can be lost in a lot of ways—evaporation, bather carry-out, splash-out, backwash. "Controlling that is important," Kempfer explained. "We're doing a lot of regenerative media filtration, which helps reduce backwash by 90 percent. It's a more expensive investment at first, but it helps over time."

Water conservation is also important, Kempfer said, because in many communities water use is restricted, and citizens may begin to question why the city can spray thousands of gallons of water down slides, from tipping buckets and in waterfalls over its patrons, while they can't even water their lawns.

At NRH2O Family Waterpark in North Richland Hills, Texas, the park makes efforts to conserve as much water as possible. At the end of the season, the park removes all of the chemicals used to treat the water, which is then sent back to the area's water supply to be recirculated.

Environmental awareness also extends to the impact you'll have on the local community.

"You need to be environmentally conscious when you go into these projects," Kempfer said. "As the municipalities become more waterpark-like, you also need to remember that these are in residential neighborhoods. This is where people live, so you need courtesy as far as how tall the lights are, when they're on, what the noise level is. You can take trends from commercial waterparks, but you still need to be sensitive to the fact that municipal facilities are often built in residential neighborhoods."

While sensitivity to green issues and the local environment can lead to a heftier up-front investment, your facility is likely to save in the long term, especially as prices for fossil fuels and chemicals continue to rise.

And ultimately, you need to think about what you want to save, Kempfer said.

"Green is not inexpensive, but it can save money in the long run," she explained. "But you shouldn't just think about what you're saving money-wise—you should consider what it's saving in the environment."