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Great Wolf: Big water hog?

Developer plans to show resort would be a relative water miser

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Great Wolf: Big water hog?

A water slide at a Great Wolf Lodge resort.

Photo contributed/

POSTED April 9, 2014 1:45 a.m.

Great Wolf — the proposed indoor water park resort weighing whether to build in Manteca — conjures up another animal in the mind of some critics. Water Hog.

And by that, they aren’t referring to the English name for the world’s largest rodent called the capybara that roams South and Central America.

Manteca’s decision to turn off water indefinitely at the Library Park play feature as the drought continues to pound California for a third straight year triggered criticism that the city was being two-faced shutting down the kids’ attraction while actively negotiating with Great Wolf to build a 500-room resort that includes a 75,000-square-foot indoor water park.

City Manager Karen McLaughlin Tuesday defended the decision. Unlike water play features in Lathrop and other cities, the Library Park one does not recycle water. Instead every drop either goes into the wastewater system or evaporates.

“The city opted not to go with a water feature with recycled water due to the cost,” McLaughlin said.

Not only does the recovery system add cost to the construction but it also requires ongoing hands-on maintenance and testing to meet health code standards.

It is the reason why Manteca opted to put plans for a water play feature at Woodward Park on hold shortly after completing the Library Park feature. Newer state standards put in place required such water play features to recycle water. It doubled the upfront cost to roughly $500,000 for the play feature that was planned. That is in addition to increased ongoing operational and maintenance costs.

At the same time McLaughlin noted McWhinney Development — the Colorado-based firm that could invest $139 million to build the resort under consideration on 30 acres of city-owned land west of Costco — has indicated they plan to share cutting edge water conservation strategies with the city in the coming months.

McLaughlin said she had a chance to get a peek at the system Great Wolf uses when she toured a resort in Grand Mound in the State of Washington last year.

“Surprisingly water parks (built today) use significantly less water than you think they would,” McLaughlin noted.

It is much like car washes. The newest ones such as Clear Drop that just opened at Yosemite and Cottage avenues in Manteca employ high tech recovery systems that recycle more than  97 percent of the water used. McLaughlin noted that means considerably less water is used to clean a vehicle than if it was washed in a driveway using a garden hose.

A report conducted by Hotel & Leisure Advisors – a national hospitality consulting firm — notes 43 proposed indoor water parks are being pursued in 11 drought stricken states

It notes the biggest water use is when a waterpark is initially filled. A 125-acre “skilled sport” water attraction in Mesa, Arizona that includes a whitewater river for kayaking, scuba lagoon, snorkeling pond, and an artificial beach with 12-foot waves in addition to standard attractions will require 50 million gallons to fill it up initially.

The study notes water loss at a waterpark is by way of splash out, evaporation, deck wash down, and backwash loss.

An estimated 2 to 3 percent of daily water use at an indoor water park is lost primarily through maintenance and “topping off” the water features. Between 97 and 98 percent of the water is reused every day.

Among the reasons for water loss, maintenance related to the cleaning of water system filters is the biggest user of water.

At the Splash Canyon Waterpark in Las Vegas, a $520,000 high tech filtering system consumes about 40,000 gallons of water a year or the equivalent annual water use of 3.5 households in that southern Nevada city. By contrast a shuttered Las Vegas waterpark known as Wet ‘n Wild used a cheaper system that employed sand for filtration. That process consumed 2 million gallons of water a year or 50 times the newer filtering system according to data collected by SPB Partners, developers of the Splash Canyon  Waterpark.

The Hotel & Leisure Advisors report noted that between 65 to 75 percent of the water use at a resort with an indoor waterpark is through the lodging and restaurant portions of the business with guests using showers and toilets leading the way.

The study also noted average golf courses in the United States consume 300,000 to 500,00 gallons a day while a 100,000-square-foot waterpark — a third larger than what is proposed in Manteca — averages 125,000 to 160,000 gallon a day for all of its operations including lodging, restaurants, waterpark, and landscaping.

Water use projections for the Great Wolf Resort proposed for Manteca are expected to be included in an environmental impact report now being compiled by an independent consultant. It also would address the technology the Great Wolf facility would use to conserve and recycle water.

The EIR will address impacts of the 500-room resort hotel encompassing 290,000 square feet, an 85,000-square-foot indoor water park, 20,000-square-foot conference center and public parking. 

A future expansion is envisioned that would add 200 more rooms as well as a 76,000-square-foot addition to the water park and double the size of the conference center.

If a decision is made to go forward later this year, the earliest the resort would be in operation is by late 2018.

Great Wolf projects a $9.4 million annual payroll with 414 permanent jobs and 156 part-time jobs. They also expect 400,000 annual visitors.

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