Make a Splash with Minimal Cash

from a single nozzle to multiple features. The obvious drawback is that water is wasted, so the appropriate balance must be struck between the budget and sustainability goals. Ground sprays can be utilized for these types of systems in order to reduce water usage and its cost from a domestic supply (which can add up significantly depending on location). Take advantage of the controls available to minimize time of use, sequence, and season length, balanced with expectations. Individual valves that feed to taller spray features can be throttled down, or an anemometer can be added to minimize loss through windy conditions. In some states, recapturing this water is allowed for irrigation purposes, which can help offset the environmental drawbacks. This type is appropriate for small-park complements that offer an escape from the heat, but may not be considered destination locations.

Recirculating systems are those that draw water in initially, spray water out through features, and collect the water for filtering, treatment, and recirculation. The only water lost is from evaporation, and that taken away with patrons on their clothing. This system brings the freedom to use higher-volume, overhead-feature elements because the water is recirculated, but can cost two to three times as much as a drain-to-waste system up front, with long-term savings yielded by less water usage. Because of the need for items like storage tanks, chemical treatment, advanced controllers, and monitoring equipment, recirculating systems just cost more money. They also require a degree of maintenance and staff involvement not necessary with drain-to-waste systems. Similar to methods for a pool, frequent checks to ensure healthy conditions are mandatory. In many states, these systems trigger a department of public-health review process and design requirements that may include engineering, fencing, gates, drinking fountains, restrooms, signs, staffing, training, and annual follow-up tasks that can be quite costly in both time and money. This type is appropriate for community park destinations where investment is justified by heavy use.

Experience Items

Access to a splash pad, along with the environment surrounding the pad, can make or break the experience, so complementing an existing play environment already served by sidewalks, signs, parking, shade, and restrooms will have a cost advantage.

Earthform adjustments, plants, and simple creature comforts like seating and shade can go a long way toward making the space special. Concrete patterns and stain, signs and activities, as well as appropriately themed overhead-feature elements can bring the space alive, whether it is wet or dry. Keep in mind that the space will be dry often and may serve other uses if programmed with care, allowing the investment to be spread across multiple demands.

[iii]Finding a balance of sustainability, budget, and value can be difficult, especially when the investment will be scrutinized, no matter how much planning has been done. However, if you know what you want, and make balanced decisions throughout the process, you can definitely make a big splash with minimal cash.

Eric Hornig is a Principal and landscape architect with Hitchcock Design Group’s Recreation Studio and can be reached at ehornig@hitchcockdesigngroup.com. Hitchcock Design Group is a landscape architecture and planning firm with offices in Chicago and Naperville, Ill.


[i] System Image: Picture of a manifold cabinet under construction

[ii] Ground Spray: Picture of ground spray versus overhead spray elements

[iii] Conclusion: Full-featured splash pad

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