Guest Column - March 2012
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Splashpads Get Greener
Innovative Systems Reuse & Replenish Every Splash

By Patricia Rotschild

We have all seen the excited faces of children sprinting through the watery splashes, wanting to get wet and then just as quickly escape it as well. For some, it is a visual beauty that brings a peace of mind through its soothing sounds, while for little thrill-seekers it is their chance to experience sheer jubilation. Splashpads are a foundation for recreational aquatic parks, and are a big hit amongst the young and old. Latest studies indicate the demand for waterparks continues to rise.

In North America, splashpads are one of the most sought after amenities in municipal parks, allowing communities to offer recreational water play without the cost of construction and maintenance pains normally associated with traditional pools. They are equally popular in local neighbourhoods, often becoming the recreational focal point in communities. These interactive aquatic play areas are particularly favored by parents due to minimal safety concerns—in non-standing, zero-depth aquatic solutions the risk of drowning is virtually eliminated.

Offering a sense of pride to communities for more than 15 years, splashpads have always been designed with sensitivity to the environment. In fact, most of them operate by user-activation, and water is released based on predetermined spray sequences for a set period of time. Water is therefore not spent when it is not needed. High-efficiency nozzles and spray heads are used to minimize water consumption.

Recently, leaders in the splashpad industry have taken the next step in examining and developing sustainable options for the use, reuse and disposal of water consumed in spray parks, offering balanced and affordable solutions.

Percolation System

One solution offered is to collect the effluent water, strain it for debris and transfer it to a containment system. This porous underground reservoir naturally filters water through the earth, which eventually makes its way to a nearby pond or wetland, or replenishes the natural water table. Without using any chemicals, the earth acts as a natural bio-filter.

The percolation technology has been sprouting green success stories. In 2007, a water shortage in Abbottsford, British Columbia, prompted the Parks, Recreation, and Culture Department to find new ways to reduce the use of potable water. At the time, its spray park at Mill Lake was using 160 gallons of treated water per minute, all of which drained straight into a sewage system. The park now has an eco-friendly, reusable method of managing its spray water. Their new water management system pumps water from an underground well and sprays out in the park. Because the subsurface consists of mainly gravel, the effluent water is disposed of via a rock pit, and eventually returns back to the soil.

Subsurface Irrigation

A subsurface drip irrigation system is another water management option for splash parks. As in the percolation system, the captured water is drained, strained for debris and transferred to a containment system. With an irrigation schedule set up, an irrigation pumping station draws water from the reservoir, nourishing the vegetation and returning to nature.

The Dos Lagos Shopping Center in Corona, Calif., was looking for a water attraction that would help increase visibility to customers with minimum water and maintenance costs. The 24 directional ground sprays have increased consumer traffic, while a 6,000-gallon reservoir captures the effluent water that is then used to subsurface irrigate all of the center's plants and trees.