Successful Sustainability Methods at Water Parks

With their early adoption of adjustable-speed variable frequency drive (VFD) pumps, solar panels, and grey water recycling for irrigation, water parks were pioneers in sustainable technology long before many people had even heard of the term.

Funworld recently asked several water park experts to share their tried-and-true sustainable practices, plus the latest trends in this area.

Refillable Water Bottle
(Photo Credit: Sandcastle Waterpark Blackpool)

Proven Sustainability Practices
The key to making sustainable practices work is data—specifically data on current consumables and the impact of these practices on reducing their usage in measurable and meaningful ways.

“When you have data at hand, you can set realistic reduction goals and benchmark your progress,” says Sayan Gulino, CEO of Indonesia’s Waterbom Bali water park. “Without data, you don’t know how to get to where you want to go. For instance, installing water meters around the parks can tell you how much water each attraction is using and help you assess how well conservation methods are working.” These methods can include push-button taps, whose water flow and length of flow can be preset, VFD pumps, and sensor-equipped, zone-based water rides that only pump water when rafts are in a specific zone.

Installing water- and power-saving technology makes sustainable and economic sense. “In 2019, for instance, we saved 54,000 cubic meters of water,” Gulino says. “That’s like filling 30 hot air balloons with water. We also saved 550,402 kilowatts of power. That’s enough to light the Statue of Liberty for three weeks.”

Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool, United Kingdom, has spent the last 15 years implementing similar sustainability practices. “The very nature of our business alone dictates that water and electricity bills are amongst our largest costs each year, and water park operators have, for many years, looked at ways to reduce these costs,” says John Child, Sandcastle’s managing director. “In addition, we have been presented with many opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint. These include improving levels of recycling, sourcing more local suppliers, removing single-use plastics from our catering and retail operations, and applying motion sensors to lighting, showers, taps, and toilets.”

Sandcastle recently invested £600,000 in a new boiler/heating system that has cut energy use by 35%, and a new £340,000 energy-efficient air-cooling system that also uses 35% less electricity. “These large-scale investments are key to the reduction in our energy consumption and carbon footprint, whilst also delivering six-figure savings each year going forward,” Child says.

Quassy Amusement Park in Middlebury, Connecticut, United States, has implemented a number of proven sustainability solutions, as well. “We have been using VFDs on pumps for years,” says Quassy President and Owner Eric Anderson. “We also use Evoqua’s Defender pool filters that require very little backwashing. We recycle all motor oils and cooking oils, employ single-stream recycling, where all recyclables go into a single bin to encourage guest participation, and have installed energy-efficient LEDs on our rides and throughout the park.”

Scott Hyland, sales director with Neptune-Benson/Evoqua Water Technologies, says that compared to traditional sand filters, there is less head restriction with its Defender regenerative media filters (RMFs).

“Electrical savings of up to 50% are possible when integrating a Defender with VFD and a flow meter,” Hyland says.

FORREC, a forward-looking design firm catering to the attractions industry, considers a facility’s location when selecting the best eco-friendly approaches to employ. “Whether a water park’s environmental context is Dubai’s sunny tropical desert, tropical Indonesia’s monsoon season, or Montreal’s warm summers and snowy, frigid winters, as designers we choose the sustainability methods most effective and suitable for the region’s natural environments,” says Eric J. O’Rourke, FORREC’s senior director for theme parks. “The other tried-and-true method is to utilize well-practiced and proven, low-impact design solutions, such as cisterns, to store storm water/runoff, water filtration ponds, green roofs, permeable paving, bioswales (landscaped depressions that capture rainwater), and rain gardens.”

One last suggestion comes from water slides/rides manufacturer WhiteWater, which is implementing company-wide sustainability practices that are measurable and tangible. Una de Boer, WhiteWater’s director of global marketing and strategy, recommends getting buy-in from everyone in the organization to implement sustainable initiatives. “This means enabling the employees to live a sustainable lifestyle by going paperless, getting rid of single-use plastics, setting up a bicycle room, facilitating work from home, and more,” she says.

New Methods Abound
For pest control, Waterbom Bali hired Mosquito Lady Consulting to find, remove, and prevent the growth of larvae without using chemicals. “As a result, we no longer fog the park three times a week,” Gulino says. At WhiteWater, park designer Ray Qian says the company is also using landscaping in its sustainability efforts.

“We are using landscaping to provide natural shade and absorb carbon, which reduces water evaporation and mitigates temperature impacts,” Qian says. “Also, instead of using imported exotic plants, we recommend the use of native plants that are low maintenance to reduce irrigation needs and encourage appropriate habitats for native birds and insects.”

Tania Bayona, WhiteWater’s sales manager for South America, emphasizes that building rides to reduce waste also matters.

“Another increasingly relevant aspect of water park sustainability may not be immediately obvious, which is purchasing quality, durable products in the first place and properly maintaining existing equipment so they can last for decades,” Bayona says. “We design our products to use fewer nozzles and fewer pumps, thus reducing the number of parts that require maintenance or replacement. Meanwhile, slide resurfacing can extend the life of fiberglass products for years.”

According to FORREC Senior Designer Ingrid Vaivads, there are also “innovations in solar thermal paving systems to warm pools, plus options for nonchemical saline water purification, composting organic material as ecologically based fertilizer, and using diversified water sources such as de-salinization of seawater and rainwater harvesting.”

All of these options can help water parks achieve their sustainable goals in very real and measurable ways, using products and solutions that are available now.

The Bottom Line
There are many proven and new sustainability practices being employed by water parks that can be implemented by other businesses in the attractions industry. These practices are not only good for the environment, they are also good for business.

“Visitors want to know that the water parks they are going to embrace sustainability,” Vaivads says, “and are actively trying to manage and mitigate consumption of environmental resources.”