Identifying and addressing the public health risks of splash parks
Splash parks, also known as splash pads, spray parks, or wet decks, have gained in popularity over the last decade. These interactive parks are artificially created depressions or basins into which water is sprayed, splashed or poured onto visitors; water is not permitted to accumulate, but instead drains immediately out of the play area. Splash parks may take one of two basic designs, which influences the associated public health risks. Non-recirculating or flow-through parks discharge the water directly to waste and present a relatively low risk to their users as the design is based on using fresh potable water. In contrast, recirculating parks collect water in an underground tank, apply some form of water treatment, and re-use the water again. This presents an increased risk of contamination and disease transmission that can be mitigated through proper design and operation.
The objective of this document is to identify risks to public health posed by splash parks, the factors that contribute to this risk, outline practices that can mitigate these risks, and summarize the existing regulatory environment for these facilities. It focuses on epidemiological risks rather than physical hazards such as slip and fall injuries, heat stroke, and foot lacerations.
- Recirculating splash parks have caused several large gastrointestinal outbreaks in recent years.
- Outbreaks are typically linked to failure of the chlorination/ filtration systems and/or lack of secondary disinfection, such as ultraviolet light, but may also derive from user behaviour as well as design and operating conditions.
- This document reviews the literature to identify design, hygiene, and operational best practices that are thought to reduce the risk of critical disinfection failures.