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Municipal Parks: Making a Splash!

Municipal Splash Pad

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Over the last 20 or more years we’ve seen an increased number of water-based play areas being installed on their own or in existing parks, throughout North America.  

The history of Splash pads, splash parks, spray parks, etc., evolved when children took relief from a forced open fire hydrant on a scorching summer afternoon. The cool spray provided much relief from the heat, but what we know now are the benefits far exceed just a cooling off.  

Splash park - 1200x1200Splash pools/parks have been an upward innovative trend with variations all over the world. Popularity has grown with these types of facilities because splash pads respect water conservation, prevent drowning, lower incidents of injury, are moderately inexpensive compared to traditional swimming pools, and are loved by millions of people, not just children.  

Think of splash pads as a new addon design for playgrounds to provide cooling in the summer months and easy access for everyone. The areas are accessible to absolutely everyone, including the elderly and the disabled. The ability to play in a water device that is in most cases fully accessible without having the same exposures as a public pool is a definite asset. 

Splash Play is great for children’s development physically as it encourages the development of gross motor movement through jumping, running, and dodging. According to a Novia Scotia report, the next generation of Splash pools/parks also fosters physical development, providing sensory stimulation through tactile interactions with water sprays, streams, and jets. 


Safety & Design Considerations  

Some splash pads/parks operate like a swimming pool, with chlorinated water (as well as UV, various filtration systems, and other sanitizing agents in some cases) stored in a tank below the playing surface and recirculated through the fixtures. In other cases, potable water from the city's system flows through the spray park once and is then sent to the municipal sewer system or recycled another way.  

Though splash pads are fun and appear to be safe we do have to be aware of ongoing concerns regarding keeping health and safety for all users. 

AdobeStock_289281707In Canada, splash pads must be operated according to the provincial and local health authority's codes, standards, and regulations. The splash pads, their water supply, and drainage have to be inspected and cleaned on a regular basis. If you are planning to install or have a splash pad, ensure you have reviewed both your provincial and local guides and regulations for maintenance and safety standards. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (United States) provides The Model Aquatic Health Code information on safe water use for water play areas and fountains as a resource for regulations and best practices. These health codes & recommended practices provide an excellent resource for how to maintain adequate disinfection in water supplies, chlorine levels, PH levels, and basic daily inspection, testing & maintenance requirements. 

In some cases, splash pads are defined as an “aquatic venue.” This means they are not always regulated, nor are they always required to disinfect the water with germ-killing chemicals. This is where the importance of due diligence for owning and operating splash pads comes into play.  

Splash pads can spread germs and make users sick if the water is not adequately disinfected. So, owners and operators need to be aware of the potential exposures for children and others using these devices and how to mitigate these exposures in the future. 

In 2011, NBC reported a 3-year-old child died from a brain infection caused by a germ called “Naegleria  Fowleri” after playing on a splash pad in Texas. Public health officials determined that the splash pad’s water was recirculated and not properly disinfected. 

Unfortunately, when recommended practices, testing of water supplies, proper maintenance, and inspections are not followed the results can be dire.

Disinfecting - 1200x1200


Download our free guide on  how to maintain your splash/spray pads or parks

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Spray pads and parks can be kept clean and well-maintained to ensure they are operating in a safe manner by developing and enforcing safety rules and regulations. This should include developing a regular inspection and cleaning program. As part of your inspection program ensure all signage is in place, safety systems are operating as required, and if provided, the disinfection systems are operating. Whenever possible provide hookups and drainage systems to local municipal water and sewer systems, which are required to meet government standards for safety.  

There are ways to keep Splash pads safe and operational for all users, we just need to determine what they are, utilize the resources available, develop a maintenance program, and always implement that program. CityReporter's software maintenance management solutions allow you to efficiently ensure that you are following all enforced rules & regulations with custom inspection forms, streamlined work orders, and easy-to-use reporting.  


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