With their hands-on family fun and imaginative heat relief, sprayparks are catching on in communities around the globe. As the number and size of spraypark installations grow, more industry professionals are asking, “What is the best water-management system for our spraypark?”
In recent years, public health authorities have become more actively involved in limiting water usage and establishing water-quality standards for sprayparks.
Even if specific limits and standards do not exist, social and environmental influences are dictating that sprayparks be designed in a manner that makes water conservation a priority.
Ongoing collaboration between manufacturers, professionals, contractors and end users is leading to a focus on better design, from concept through to operation and maintenance. As the industry matures, more emphasis is being placed on providing options for sustainable solutions that meet different needs. First, a quick explanation of the three options that are most prevalent.
1 Water-treatment systems (recirculation). Water is sprayed from the features and then drained into a collection tank. The water goes through a process of filtration, chemical treatment (and preferably UV disinfection) before being reused in the park. Water-treatment systems are typically the most expensive option initially, but can be the best long-term solution for large parks or parks in areas with strict water policies.
2 Retain-and-reuse systems. Water is sprayed from the features and then drained into a large collection tank. The water in the tank is treated and utilized for other applications such as irrigation, washroom facilities and/or street cleaning. Retain-and-reuse systems are a relatively new concept for sprayparks; they are specifically designed for each unique environment. The system must take into consideration the volume of water that will be captured, the amount that can be practically reused and the best distribution method.
3 Potable, drain-to-waste systems. Potable water (from a municipal supply line) is sprayed from the features and then drained to the storm or sanitary sewer.
Determining the type of water-management system should start with a call to the local health department to see which regulations are currently in place and any pending changes. Implementation of a water-treatment system or a retain-and-reuse system usually requires health department approval; it is important to engage health officials in the early stages of planning and evaluation. Most suppliers will work with the designer to provide the documentation needed throughout the approval process. The time and effort involved in getting approval should be factored into the budget and project timeline.
While considering water usage is critical in the planning stage, it is also important to understand the water source. Does the project location have a primary water source readily available? Is it a potable water supply, well water, lake water or some other type of water source? Answers to these questions can influence the overall site plan, as well as the design of the water management solution best suited to the environment.
The size and cost of the water-management system will vary depending on the size of the spraypark, the number of features and their relative water flow rates. Today, most sprayparks utilize a controller and activators to sequence the flow of water and to place operation of the park’s features into the hands of users. The electronic control reduces water usage because water only flows when the park is in use. At the same time, it also increases the intrigue and interactivity of the park because kids will try to anticipate which components will spray next.
If the decision to use a water recirculation system is most applicable (in most cases it is), the filtration method most commonly used is sand filtration. Filtration is coupled with chlorine disinfection and ideally with ultraviolet (UV) treatment to supplement sanitation and reduce the risk of waterborne illnesses. UV treatment adds an extra safeguard against chlorine-resistant pathogens in the water.
When designing the water recirculation system, safeguards and improvements can be added. There should be automated chemical controls that maintain the chemical balance in the collection tank and shut off the feature pump if the water quality falls outside the acceptable parameters specified by the health authority. A strainer and diverter system can be added to pre-screen large debris and media prior to drainage into the collection tank. A diverter can be added to redirect rainwater from the pad when the park is not in use to prevent the dilution of the chemicals in the collection tank.
Keep in mind that water recirculation systems will need to be manually checked to ensure that the chemical levels are within their allowable range and that the system is performing within the health standards and regulations. The frequency of the manual checks is usually set by the health authority and typically it is once to several times daily. The maintenance staff required for these manual checks should be factored into the long-term operation and maintenance planning.
If retain and reuse is the chosen method, ensure you have a thorough understanding of how and where the water will be used. These systems can get derailed if designers have difficulty getting buy-in from the different departments that will be affected.
Regardless of the amount and how the water is used, a spraypark is a place to have fun; the process of planning one should exemplify the fun associated with the industry. Building the spraypark of everyone’s dreams is made easy if you take time to understand the needs of the community, collaborate with your project partners and work together to make decisions based on long-term goals.