Technology in Water Parks

A couple weeks ago I posted about how technology is changing amusement rides, to make them safer and more intense. Just like how I maintain these “dry” rides, I also take care of one of the United States largest seasonal waterparks. I have over 10 years’ experience in operating waterparks and they are where I started my career and moved up from a seasonal worker to a manager. Technology has made it’s impacts on waterpark safety long ago but in the last ten years attractions have begun to pop up that also enhance the rider experience.

Commercial swimming pools need to be maintained 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even when users are not swimming, the water balance and mechanical equipment need to be monitored and maintained. I will try to give a very simplistic and quick overview of the basics of how swimming pool water is balanced.

The mixture of chemicals and the chemistry on how they react together to sanitize the organic matter in the water is called water chemistry. There are many parameters to consider, but the most important are the disinfectant level and pH balance. There are many different disinfectants that can be used to sanitize the water, each with its advantages and disadvantages. The disinfectant is what neutralizes or kills the organic matter in the water. You need enough to do the job but not too much to detract from the swimmer’s experience or if too high, harmful.

The other part of the equation is the pH balance. Since most disinfectants have a high pH, sodium hypochlorite is around 11, we must bring the pH back down to where pool users are comfortable. Like disinfectants, there are many chemicals that lower the pH, each with their own advantages and disadvantages and use cases. The target for pH is anywhere between 7.0 – 8.0 with an ideal range between 7.2 – 7.8.

You can imagine how difficult it is trying to keep disinfectant and pH levels balanced, especially on a hot summer day when the bather load is at its highest. Those maintaining the pools must constantly perform water checks to ensure that levels are where they need to be. Enter the swimming pool controller or just ‘controller’ for short. The controller does just that, controls all the parameters for a swimming pool. They are basically self-sustaining computers whose sole job is to read sensors and make decisions based on those readings. There are many parameters that a controller can control. The main benefit for the use of controllers is safety. Readings from a pH and chlorine sensor are being taken constantly and the controller is reacting to the changes.

An example of a controller set-up. Sensors are placed in the flow of water on left hand side of the picture and the controller is on the right. –

The pool controller will maintain balance all day and all night automatically without human intervention. Manual water tests are still performed periodically, usually multiple times a day to ensure the controller is reading correctly, but the controller greatly reduces the risk of human error. Most states, if not all, require the use of a controller on all commercial swimming pools, that is how important they are. Many deadly diseases spread in unchlorinated water and the public can get sick in great numbers if the sanitizer level is not high enough. Controllers prevent such instances of occurring and many controller models will notify the owner/operator if a parameter falls outside the desired range.

Technology has given the old school plain old waterslide a new life. About 5 years ago we renovated an enclosed family raft ride to include lights and music. Before riders enter the slide, they choose their song selection and away they go. They are greeted with a one a kind LED light show along the entire course of the ride synced up to the music they selected. Technology has greatly improved the ride to provide a one of kind experience.

LEDs greatly enhance the experience –

With the advancements in computer aided design, or CAD, waterslide manufactures can create more intense rides than ever before. Being able to simulate to a reasonably accurate degree, the speed and position of the riders has increased the speed in which manufactures design safe and new thrilling rides.

An example of a waterslide complex CAD –

Every year at about this time, the dead of winter, I begin to get excited about getting the water park ready for guests to enjoy for the upcoming season. The thought of the warm sun is what helps me get though these long cold wintery days. I always though how interesting it would be to work with the designers of waterslides to aide in the creation of these new and exciting rides.

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