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Feature Article - April 2011

Puddle-Loving Fun

New Developments in Sprayground Design

By Deborah L. Vence


Water Treatment & Energy Conservation

Water, of course, is what keeps a sprayground up and running, which is why the safest and most economical water management system is the all-important element to a sprayground.

Some accessible technology used at waterparks now can be used at spraygrounds, which addresses water and energy sustainability and interactivity in ways never seen before in the sprayground industry.

Mark Williams, president and CEO of an Ashland, Ohio-based company that specializes in commercial indoor and outdoor water play products, said spraygrounds can adapt to the water treatment systems using existing technology.

"Essentially, we have adopted technology that has been used in the larger waterpark industry for years," Williams said. "Recently, due to technology innovations/cost reductions, this technology is now cost-effective to apply to smaller spraygrounds. When I say 'new,' it's existing technology that's proven to be working in the aquatics world, just never been brought to a sprayground. This technology leverages a variable frequency drive [that's been used] in aquatic areas for years."

To explain, the technology has four distinct features that control spraygrounds and that increase sustainability with the ability to remotely access a sprayground. This first computerized sprayground control system is designed to leverage the benefits of variable frequency drives, proportional valves, a Linux-based operating system, Internet, sound and wireless activation.

This technology is different in that the current state of the industry uses printed circuit boards (PCB) and programmable logic controllers (PLC), which are outdated and have limited capacity and functionality. The issue with the current technology is that the feature valves are 100 percent open or 100 percent closed, and the pump either is all the way on or all the way off.

"The controller, which is a PCB or programmable logic controller, acts like a coffee maker, and does what it's told over and over. It's just like a coffee maker. You it turn on and make coffee," Williams explained.

"So, what we've done is leverage today's computer power, a Linux-based operating system that is now running the sprayground. It's running by a computer. And what that allows us to do is to do things we've never been allowed to do before," he said.

He explained that a typical sprayground is started up by a bollard, where you wave your hand in front of a valve and the water pump kicks on.

However, in this case, "Regardless of the number of participants, if there is one feature, then that pump is on or off. It's kicking out all this water. The old technology will turn on four or five features. The problem is that it's not a sustainable [method]. If there is only one child out there [why do you need all those features on]," Williams said.

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