Supplement Feature - October 2017
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Splash On!

The Ongoing Evolution of Splash Play

By Dave Ramont

Water Conservation

These days, water consumption is a hot topic, and it's only going to come under more scrutiny going forward. "It's true that water is a precious resource," Parent said, explaining that their products and technologies are designed not only for safety and quality, but also with a focus on the water itself. "We've developed proprietary technologies to reduce the water consumption. And we also offer a variety of options with respect to water quality management systems, controllers and splash-pad sequencing."

Tracy echoed this: "Water quality and use management are very important, and our designs are developed to use as little water as possible while recirculating the water using the most efficient water quality equipment."

There are three types of systems for managing water use. Flow-through or domestic systems use potable water, which goes through the splash pad and then is returned to the municipal wastewater system, where it might be used for irrigation or percolated back to the water table. Repurposing systems bypass the wastewater system, as the water is transferred to a holding tank after it passes through the play area. It is then sent through a filtration and disinfection system, and eventually used for surface or sub-surface irrigation. These two systems require relatively low maintenance. Finally, recirculation systems use water that is held in a subterranean tank. After it's fed through the water-play features, it's returned to the tank, where it's filtered, chemically treated, sometimes heated, and then recycled back through the play area. These systems are the most efficient.

"We promote the use of recirculation systems as it greatly enhances the water-play experiences as well as conserves water. In general, having a splash pad with a recirculation system will save 15 million gallons of water annually," said Stokes, adding that since the water is recirculated, there is more water and more interactive value for providing big water effects. "However, recirculation systems require trained staff to maintain the system and ensure the water is safe for public use." He also said they're seeing more splash park operators converting their domestic systems to recirculation systems, to save water as well as water costs.

Back at Otter Cove, Bruggeman shared some of their green initiatives: "The water is heated, treated and filtered like any one of our pools, thus saving on water," she said. "We use variable frequency drives on our water feature and filter pumps to save on electricity consumption. All of our bathroom facilities are low-flow, sensor-operated flush valves and lavatory faucets."

She added that the holding tank for the water features is 2,800 gallons, and it needs to be dumped and cleaned frequently, since it can turn blue from the blue tiles on the pad surfacing. They originally had a poured-in-place surface, but delaminating caused them to go with tiles, which Bruggeman said have a tendency to curl and create a trip step at the edges. "Poured-in-place, and soft surface tiles don't react well to chemically treated water."

Surfacing, Lighting & Other Trends

While there are many types of surfaces available, splash pads can be tough on surfacing. "Any surfacing used needs to be rated for and tested in aquatic environments. It should be able to withstand the constant impact from the weather and chemical elements found in a splash pad," Croteau said.

Tracy suggested that "anyone installing a surface obtain a good guarantee to ensure that proper workmanship is carried out."

One feature that's continuing to evolve is lighting for splash parks, as it can be both functional and eye-catching. "This is a great way to extend operation hours or even get dual purpose from your splash pad. We've seen a lot of communities use the splash pad for play in the day and as an aesthetic in the evening. Adding lights can really amplify the nighttime look," Croteau said.

Facilities can go a step farther by using LED lights, which can be used with many ground-spray products, and water-feature sequencing to design a choreographed light show for nighttime entertainment as well as off-season displays.

And what about other "hot" trends in products or design? Stokes said that many customers are interested in splash pad designs with a more urban aesthetic. "We're creating products with contemporary curves, modern color schemes and industrial-looking materials like translucent plastics and brushed stainless steel finishes." Tracy explained that composite and specialty plastics allow them to continually present new forms and water feature designs. "Plastics have the advantage of low heat and electrical conductivity while eliminating the use of expensive foundations required for metal structures."

Children and adults alike will continue to be drawn to water, both for how it refreshes and captivates us. And those who design splash park products and facilities will continue to find new, wondrous ways to wet our appetites.