Feature Article - March 2011
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Maintenance Series: Spraygrounds

Don't Walk Away
Spraygrounds Require Ongoing Maintenance

By Dawn Klingensmith

There's an old saying in the pool industry that helps explain why splashpads, or "spraygrounds," haven't lived up to their reputation as low-maintenance replacements for swimming pools: "The solution to pollution is dilution."

Compared with pools, "People think they're less maintenance, but I'd say that's actually very false," said Rob Morgan, president of Sunbelt Pools, a Dallas company that constructs splashpads and other commercial aquatic facilities. "A lot of municipalities seem to think you can build a sprayground and then let it sit there without anyone checking on it. But you need a well-trained person who visits preferably several times a day to make sure there are no problems."

The main problem, Morgan said, is too much pollution and insufficient dilution: "There are so many contaminants going into such a small body of water."

That's not insurmountable by any means, but municipalities are often unprepared to deal with the daily maintenance and sanitation requirements of splashpads.

When it comes to supervision and safety, splashpads are cheaper and easier than pools because no lifeguards are needed. But when it comes to sanitation and chemical, mechanical and preventative maintenance, the requirements are comparable. In fact, as far as equipment goes, a splashpad is "pretty much the same" as a swimming pool, with pipes, valves, pumps, filters, strainers and treatment systems that need to be maintained, said aquatic consultant Terry Brannon, The C.T. Brannon Corp., Tyler, Texas.

An exception is splashpads that use drinking-quality water in a flow-through system. Rather than recirculating, the water drains away or is captured and used for irrigation. There is no mechanical equipment per seā€”just a series of valves to control water flow. This simple approach to water quality is indeed low-maintenance, as it basically amounts to turning on a tap and letting the water run continuously. There should be no issues with water quality, and no need for treatment systems, as long as potable water is used. The obvious disadvantages to this type of system are the waste and the water bill. Many regions cannot afford, let alone justify, wasting this amount of water, so recirculating systems are more often used.