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.

Above Ground Irrigation

Another solution is to link the splashpad to a surface irrigation system, which allows for above-grade dripping, spray or surface-flooding options.

Water collected from the splashpad is first accumulated in a holding tank and gradually filtered and disinfected before being transferred to an underground reservoir. The irrigation pumping station draws the clean water from the reservoir at the onset of scheduled irrigation.

An average medium-sized splashpad runs approximately 160 GPM, or just under 55,000 gallons per day. To irrigate a youth soccer field requires approximately 22,000 gallons per day (in the southeastern United States) to 68,000 gallons per day (in the southwestern United States). Why not use the same water beforehand in a spray park that will provide further recreation to the community?

The Kids Love Recreation splashpad at Seymour Lake in Michigan is an example of this type of solution. The installed system offers several different uses for the same water, adding to its economical benefits. The splashpad system links to a manmade pond. At night the pond is used to irrigate a surrounding park and sports field, while in the winters it becomes an ice-skating rink, and finally, it is also used as an emergency water source for the local fire department.

More parks are looking for sustainable alternatives to traditional recirculating systems. The capturing and reusing of water for sub-surface, or above-ground, irrigation significantly cuts down on the use of freshwater, taking every drop of water as far as it can go. Advancement in technology combined with consideration and design have resulted in innovative new options for water management. Partnering with experts in zero-depth aquatic solutions ensures that aquatic play is as safe for the environment as it is for the children.

Patricia Rotschild is a marketing and design specialist for Vortex Aquatic Structures International. For more information, visit www.vortex-intl.com.

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