Hanging In The Balance

The appeal of interactive water playgrounds is ever-increasing. With the downturn in both the economy and discretionary spending, more families are looking for alternative, less-expensive ways to share family fun. However, facility operators and managers must take a conscientious look at their responsibilities. Patrons flocking to these attractions trust the operators to provide properly maintained water that is bacterially safe. Water-quality conditions in aquatic play features change rapidly based on high bather loads, sunlight and design configurations of the features.

A Balancing Act

Unlike traditional swimming pools, aquatic play features have a significant set of water-quality parameters, which must be constantly monitored in order to avoid risk to bathers. Bather splash-out and evaporation impose the addition of make-up water at a higher rate than that of swimming pools. It is vital that the operator know the chemistry of the fill water. If the fill water has a high or low pH, alkalinity or calcium hardness, this will impact the water chemistry. Water-balance adjustments should begin with knowledge of the fill water as this will impact the future pool chemistry. In water features such as slides, where there are several water levels at various stages of the flumes, it is mandatory that the water be tested at different points along the runout section. Winding slides, as well as wave pools, attract large bather loads at various times. The larger the bather load, the more critical it is for the operator to monitor the water chemistry. This is the reason most facilities are now using electronic water-chemistry monitors to assess the chemical requirements, and adjust automatically for chemical additions. However, the operator must be mindful that the sensors may not read accurately if scale, dirt or grime attaches to the probes. Part of standard operation should be the visual inspection of these probes as well as periodic manual water tests using traditional DPD test kits. The combination of both will provide a safer environment for the bathers.

Test The Waters

Water testing–whether manual or electronic–must be recorded more frequently than with traditional swimming pools. There should be written records of water-chemistry parameters based on local health-code requirements. State and local codes require compliance with the frequency of water tests; however, a conscientious operator will exceed the local codes, as shallow water, make-up water, heavy bather loads, external air temperatures and rain environments will alter the chemistry rapidly.

Above And Beyond

Operator trust is crucial. The increase in the spread of recreational water illnesses (RWIs) is evident from reports from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (www.healthyswimming.com). Because of the influx of RWIs into water environments, chlorine levels must be maintained at all times. The activity of the chlorination will depend on the pH of the pool water. As an example, the higher the pH, the more inactive the hypochlorous acid will be; in layman’s terms, the chlorine will not be as active at killing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, algae and fungi. In order to effectively and efficiently maintain disinfection, there are additional technologies that should be incorporated into the water-quality systems. Ozone is a powerful oxidizer. Studies now show evidence that ozone generation is effective in inactivating those RWIs that are resistant to chlorine–such as cryptosporidium and Giardia. It is advisable that ozone manufacturers be consulted in order to size the equipment properly for each water feature. Operators must be aware that ozone, when not properly mixed, will gas off a toxic fume, which is harmful if bathers inhale. Therefore, the operators must constantly monitor the ozone units.

Other Considerations

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