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August 10, 2022

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Even conservationists not worried about water park being a drain

Las Vegas plans for new swim park

KSNV coverage of the swim park developing in the Summerlin area, Nov. 14, 2011.

Splash Canyon Waterpark

Steve Mayer, Harvest Family Entertainment vice president and general manager of Splash Canyon, announces on Monday, Nov. 14, 2011, that a 25-acre park called Splash Canyon will open near Fort Apache and Warm Springs roads by Memorial Day 2012. Launch slideshow »

Future site of Splash Canyon Waterpark

Letter to the editor

For those with visions of a cool summer escape, a new water park in Las Vegas has seemed like a mirage in the seven years since Wet ’n Wild drained its last drop of water.

Then, with relief in sight, this week’s announcement of construction on an $18 million water park in the western valley immediately drew the ire of some water-conscious residents.

How could the region sustain a labyrinth of slides and pools when homeowners can’t even water their lawns without restrictions?

SPB Partners, developers of Splash Canyon Waterpark, say it’s a simple math equation: The 11-acre, fenced-in amusement zone is projected to consume about 9 million gallons of water a year — millions fewer than if a residential neighborhood or park inhabited the same space.

Plus, the Southern Nevada Water Authority requires any treated water be connected to the sewer system, where it is recaptured and recycled, SNWA spokesman Scott Huntley said.

“The water footprint is going to be rather small,” he said. “These kind of large, community water systems are better than individual pools.”

The park, slated to open by Memorial Day, will be located at Fort Apache and Warm Springs roads, near the Las Vegas Beltway. Developers expect it to draw 5,000 people a day.

Developer Roger Bulloch, a co-founder and managing principal of SPB Partners, said he expected criticism about the park’s water usage.

Some scientists have predicted water shortages by 2021 in the Las Vegas Valley, which relies on a Colorado River reservoir at Lake Mead for 90 percent of its water supply.

“This is one of my hot topics as well,” said Bulloch, a third-generation Las Vegas native.

The drive to build a water park kicked off with two years of planning involving many water studies, he said.

Those studies determined 80 homes — based on average Las Vegas lot sizes — could fit on the parcel where the park is being built, Bulloch said.

The average household’s water consumption — 127,400 gallons a year, according to the American Water Works Association — multiplied by the number of homes that could be built on the site would result in about 10.2 millions of water used per year.

Applying a similar equation to compare water usage by a park — the land’s original designation by the county — or a golf course resulted in an even greater consumption: 25 million gallons, Bulloch said.

SNWA officials said that although water parks may seem like symbols of water waste, they’re actually better than outdoor irrigation that sends water seeping into the ground instead of being recovered.

Indoor water use, such as flushing toilets or doing laundry, and other uses of treated water earn return-flow credits — meaning other states using Colorado River water allow Southern Nevada to use another gallon of water for every gallon it replenishes, Huntley said.

“None of that affects our water supply, because we recapture that,” he said.

The old Wet ’n Wild on the Strip, which closed in 2004, was connected to the sewer system in the same way Splash Canyon will be, Huntley said.

Still, the Water Authority’s conservation team plans to meet with Splash Canyon developers to discuss their plans and gather information.

The Colorado River Commission of Nevada, the agency responsible for managing the state’s share of water from the river, has no concerns about Splash Canyon, especially because water parks tend to use advanced water-saving technology, said Executive Director Jayne Harkins.

“We support the economic development of Southern Nevada, if this helps,” she said.

SPB Partners has purchased a $520,000 filtering system that will use about 40,000 gallons of water per season, Bulloch said. In contrast, Wet ’n Wild used a cheaper, sand filtration system, which lost as much as 2 million gallons of water each season, he said.

The decision was partly environmental and partly financial, Bulloch said. “We knew we could either spend it now or spend it later,” he said.

The park’s design also keeps evaporation in mind. Underground tanks will store water for the slides, ultimately saving water in the park, Bulloch said.

Cloward H2O, the Utah-based company engineering Splash Canyon, designed a 60-acre water park in Dubai, which shares Las Vegas’ desert climate, Bulloch said.

“We hope this becomes a talking point among the whole county,” Bulloch said of the park’s resource-friendly design. “We want to challenge people to build at this level.”

Howard Watts, a field director for Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said he welcomes the addition of a water park to Southern Nevada.

“There’s a lot of demand and interest for having that place to go in the summer when it’s 117 degrees,” he said.

Watts said such water projects should serve as catalyst for discussion about conservation. “While I’m not opposed to this project, I think we have to be really careful about our water use,” Watts said.

When the first phase of Splash Canyon opens in May, the park, billed as a family-friendly, alcohol-free attraction, will feature 20 slides, a wave pool, lazy river, water playground and toddler pool, among other amenities. An eventual 15-acre expansion would bring the park’s total size to 40 acres, including parking and other outdoor space.

The project is a partnership with The Howard Hughes Corp., the developers of Summerlin who own the land. SPB Partners signed a long-term lease with Hughes, which, in turn, will build an adjacent community park and indoor aquatics center as part of the project master plan.

Bulloch said groundwork is under way, and the water slide structures will arrive in March.

“These water parks are like one big erector set,” he said.

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