Amidst the West’s megadrought, California residents are being asked to cut back on daily water use by 15 percent. The state Water Control Board has imposed a statewide ban on watering non-functional turf, such as grass around commercial building.
Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties are limited to watering outdoor plants once a week – a severe measure that has never before been implemented.
Earlier this year, scientists reported that the West’s current megadrought is the worst in at least 1,200 years.
Within such a landscape, some wonder, how sensible is it to open a water park like Wild Rivers in Irvine, California. A recent article appearing within The Orange County Register asks this question.
The $60 million water park was slated to open beginning June 20, 2022, on twenty acres in Irvine’s Great Park, nearly 50 miles south of Los Angeles. The park features water slides, a wave pool, a lazy river, and assorted children’s attractions. The park has been eagerly awaited by fans after the original park closed in 2011 following the expiration of its lease. Since then, plans have been in place to recreate Wild Rivers on or near its current location. Construction finally began July 2021, as the state entered the second year of its current drought.
Mike Reidel, Wild Rivers owner, is no stranger to conversations about water conservation in his line of work.
While it looks like a lot of water, nearly all of the water is recycled – filtered, and then reused. And, aware of the drought, Reidel said the park has employed a lot of water-saving measures throughout, including waterless urinals, a watersaving filtration mechanism to make backwashing more efficient, and drought tolerant plants, to be occasionally watered with recycled water.
“We’re trying to be to be smart and environmentally conscious with the park’s design,” Reidel said.
He contends that relative to other commercial uses, water parks are low intensity water users.
According to David Feldman, a professor at UC Irvine, an average water park takes about 900,000 gallons to fill up. Every month, about 2 percent of that water is lost to evaporation, splashing out, or backwashing, which Feldman acknowledges is certainly a lot of water. At the same time, however, he notes that a typical golf course, of which Southern California has more than 600, uses between 300,000 to 500,000 gallons a day.
And if you further recognize that more people use waterparks than golf courses, from the standpoint of frivolous recreational water use, water parks come out looking better.
Meanwhile, Wild Rivers provides a location for about 7,000 people to be per day, meaning they are not using water in other ways. The New York Times recently reported that the average Californian uses 83 gallons of water per day. If that water is not used at home while people are visiting Wild Rivers, that initial 900,000 gallons and 2 percent replacement water may be somewhat offset.
Reidel further notes that Wild Rivers will provide thousands of jobs to young people every year, as well as providing money to the city.
So, do you think it’s sensible to open a water park during a historic drought? Send your thoughts to [email protected]