Feature Article - September 2013
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Trickle Down Theory

Boosting Waterpark Fun to Grow Revenues, Build Community

By Rick Dandes

Just to put into perspective what effect conservation efforts have, Doug Bennett, the Southern Nevada Water Authority conservation manager, explained how much water is really being used in the waterpark: "If Wet 'n' Wild's projected water use is spread out among 300,000 visitors a year," he said, "it equates to about one 10-minute shower per person. That's less water than you would use if you let your children run through the backyard sprinklers for two minutes." To be able to operate a fun, and large waterpark in the middle of the desert while using that small an amount of water is huge.

An interesting design development at smaller parks is aquatic recreational areas that residents can enjoy at no additional charge.

As hot water solar power (not PV solar) is being more and more accepted, "we are seeing that used at smaller waterparks," Caron said. "The return on investment here is usually two-to-one or three-to-one depending on the area you are in and how it gets set up. But solar power is popular for two reasons: one, because it reduces your operations cost and two, it's a very visible way to say, 'We're green,' which is very trendy these days."

The use of pool covers, thermal blankets that lay on the surface of the water and prevent evaporation loss, can be a tedious daily maintenance chore, but "we're seeing some of those in recto-linear pools more than in wave pools or lazy rivers," he noted. There are liquid pool covers that are used indoors and make a lot more sense than outdoors. "We haven't seen a lot of that used outdoors," he continued, "but for indoor facilities where you can shut things down at night, or at least scale them back, it can reduce your water loss and combined with water loss is heat loss, which relates to energy dollars and chemical use."

Meanwhile, there is some movement to reuse backwash water. But that is very dependent upon where you are in the country and where it is allowed. "We have been sending our backwash water from our pool filters to a common sump, then re-filter the water, send it through ultraviolet disinfection, and pump it to a lake where we re-use it for irrigating turf," said Loose, of Water World. "We are converting to low-flow toilets that flush less water. We also use pool covers where feasible during our shoulder seasons to reduce heat loss from the pool surface. And, we have begun to install more efficient pool filters that minimize backwashing and the amount of water needed to backwash." A further energy-saving move at Water World is the use of LED lighting where feasible, replacing old light fixtures.

Water Treatment Innovations

Many of the technologies that have been used for years in aquatic life support systems (LSS, or systems designed for aquariums) are starting to be more effectively utilized in swimming pools and their associated treatment systems. LSS engineers rely on the highest quality equipment, redundancy, high turn-over rates, mechanical filtration, ozone and vigilant staff to keep healthy aquatic environments. Proper water quality control and chemical balance are crucial to pool health.

"Great technology cannot compensate for poor maintenance or control systems," Colvin explained. "Aquarium life support systems turned to ozone some decades ago for its unique ability to achieve high microbial kill rates with no harmful residual effects on the water." While not new, ozone could be more utilized in swimming pools, as it is the most powerful oxidizer and sanitizer available. The result of a system using ozone, Colvin continued, is safe and crystal clear water.

"While UV is being utilized more in commercial pools, it is not the most effective or the least expensive method of sanitizing pools," he said. "UV has its place, as well as salt chlorine generators. … Salt chlorine is not usually applicable in a high-use system. Regenerative media filters have had a huge impact on both water quality and sustainability."