From Splash Pad To Sprinkler

The city of Colton, Calif., recently completed work on a $3-million renovation to its Veterans Park. The project includes the installation of a three-field baseball/softball sports complex, two children’s play areas, two basketball courts, a fenced hard-court soccer field, four horseshoe pits, turf and concrete path improvements and a splash pad. The renovation has reinvigorated the park, which has been a mainstay in the community since 1939. While all of the new features have been popular with residents, the splash pad has been the main attraction for the neighborhood youth.

Although the outward appearance of Colton’s newest water attraction is similar to others, the design of the splash pad makes it noteworthy. During the design process, the staff grappled with ideas like using a recycled/treated-water system, or allowing the grey water to escape to the city’s sewer system. Neither choice was palatable, as the wasteful grey-water system was not eco-friendly and the treated-water system was cost-prohibitive. The staff feared that the splash-pad concept might have to be eliminated from the overall project.

Another Option

Tom Williams, the city engineer and project manager, had another idea. Since the park project included new ball fields requiring daily irrigation to maintain, why not capture the grey water from the splash pad and use it to irrigate the fields? Everyone agreed that this was a great idea--but was it practical?

The system “process” was defined, with the primary concern that it be functional, yet simple for staff to manage, maintain, and operate. Normally, the two disciplines of sprinkler controls and fluid-level management are not integrated, so existing technology was spare. Additionally, any water storage had to be underground, out of public sight.

Williams incorporated a weather-based, irrigation-management component. This relatively new technology, which utilizes weather satellites, allocates water based on such variables as season, temperature, humidity and rain-fall. As opposed to the old timer approach to irrigation, the new program monitors how much moisture is “needed” by the turf, and adjusts irrigation cycles to provide for only that amount of water.

How It Works

The splash pad operates during city-designated hours. A timer is set and can be regulated by staff members. During these hours, park visitors can activate the water features by touching a switch, incorporated into one of the features. Once activated, all water features remain active for a period of 4 minutes. If the switch is not activated again during this period, the features will shut off until the switch is engaged.

The water used during splash-pad operation is drained and stored in an underground tank for use in irrigation. The tank is actually a series of interlocking, polyethylene-corrugated HDPE pipes, which handle the storage capacity without the need for a large underground tank. Any water that exceeds the capacity of the tank is routed to the city sanitary-sewer system.

For staff-designated irrigation times, the system activates park sprinklers as calculated by the weather-based monitoring system. This helps ensure that water is not wasted.

If the water level in the storage tank becomes low (e.g., during periods of warm weather), the system will activate a fill line from the park’s main water source, ensuring that adequate water is available to fulfill turf demand.

The end result is a new water feature that has become a gathering point for neighborhood children and their parents. The technology involved in the system is out of sight, and does not hinder the enjoyment of the park. Estimates are that this system annually saves several million gallons of water and over $60,000 in staff and water costs. Reviews have been extremely positive.

Bill Smith , CPRP, is the director of Community Services for the city of Colton. He can be reached via e-mail at