Guest Column - October 2010
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What Matters Now in Sprayground Water Treatment

By Del Williams

For hands-on family fun and imaginative heat relief, spray parks are catching on in communities around the world.

But, as the question changes from "Should we construct a spray park?" to "What's the best design for our spray park?" professionals such as landscape architects, parks and recreation managers and aquatic designers are recognizing the need for collaboration.

What's emerging is a focus on better design from concept through operation, maintenance and paying the water bill. Of particular concern are water conservation and safety, with an emphasis on better water treatment system design.

Landscape Architects, Stewards of the Land

Like other proactive landscape architecture firms, Scatliff, Miller and Murray is a proponent of water conservation, which it incorporates into its design vision. Water safety and visual impact, along with practical, budget-oriented implementation round out its spray park goals on appropriate projects.

"As landscape architects, our bias is to stewardship of the land and its resources, including clean water which is getting scarcer," said Bob Somers, an associate landscape architect at Scatliff, Miller and Murray, an award-winning landscape architecture and urban design consulting firm based in Winnipeg, Canada. "Like many communities, as we balance the need for a spray park in a hot summer climate with responsible water use, we're turning from flow-to-drain to recirculation systems."

Along with this, Somers said he expects stronger health and safety standards in the spray parks and interactive fountain markets as they grow and mature. And weaving a complementary sense of design throughout a project is critical as well.

"From a visual design perspective, our goal is to integrate the spray park or fountain into the landscape, to make them a destination whether the water is on or off," Somers said.

"To ease the design process, having a full range of water source and treatment options available is key," added Somers. "Having technical expertise at hand is necessary as well."

Scatliff, Miller and Murray projects show how its water conservation, health and visual design goals can easily work together. Its Central Park project will create a 5-acre destination playground for an urban Winnipeg community with a 6,500-square-foot spray park, soccer field, sledding hill and other amenities.

To conserve water in the spray park, a combination of high and low-flow spray nozzles will be used, along with a state-of-the-art water treatment, recirculation system.

Sand filtration, chlorine use and ultraviolet treatment to kill bacteria greatly enhance the safety and cleanliness of the recirculated water. While filtration and chlorine are commonly used to sanitize swimming pools, high-intensity, ultraviolet treatment is an even more effective level of protection from potential pathogens in recirculated water.

To integrate the architecture with the landscape, the water treatment system, including a recirculated water cistern, is located in a building basement with no obstructive structures aboveground.

Among the visual attractions of the spray park will be a waterfall cascading off a cement canopy into a wading pool, plus a number of fully interactive spray features.