Pros And Cons Of
Fresh Water Vs Recirculation for Splash Pads

Safety first! At My Splash Pad, one of our priorities is having the safest water play for children everywhere!

We recommend a freshwater system so children do not come in contact with harmful bacteria and chemicals that could potentially cause illness, skin irritations, and burns.

You never know what they are sensitive to, so it is better to be safe than sorry for everyone.


With a splash pad, you are dealing with a very small body of water, around 1,000 gallons, instead of the 10’s of thousand gallons you have with a pool. It only takes a few children in diapers to play in the splash pad after you have checked the chemicals, and you could quickly have a bacteria problem in the water. This can create a tricky problem if your chemistry is not exact. Someone can end up ill or chemically burnt due to improper water chemistry.

With recirculation, it opens you up to liabilities since a large majority of children are of that age to be in diapers using a splash pad. Therefore, we always recommend using a freshwater system to avoid liability for the customer.

Since you are most likely using city water, they handle all the sanitizing for you, and it takes all the liability away from you since it is fresh, drinkable water.

If you look at pictures of children in splash pads, you will see almost 1/3 of the children with their faces down in a nozzle drinking the water or that they are running around with their mouths open and water is going in. This is why it is so essential to make sure that you are providing the best option for the children that will be playing in the splash pad!

“It only takes a few children in diapers to play in the splash pad after you have checked the chemicals and you could quickly have a bacteria problem in the water…”

Recirculation details

$25K-$50K+ – Dependant on the state, the Health Department looks at a splash pad the same as a publicly used swimming pool.

  • Recirculation will add about $25K-$50K or even more to the cost of a splash pad up front due to the below information.
  • You will need Sealed Engineered Drawings done for a recirculation splash pad, and your Engineer will work with your city on their requirements.
  • You will have substantially more costs in permits and onsite inspections, so it will take us longer to install, which costs you more due to the extra time we are on-site.
  • You will have the cost of buying chemicals to keep bacteria at bay.
  • You will need daily checking of the splash pad by a certified, licensed pool contractor to check and top off chemicals, plus log everything for your state inspections that you will have a few times a year.
  • You are paying extra for someone to maintain recirculation equipment and keep up with sanitation throughout the year. Also, in a few years, you might need to replace one of those commercial pumps (there are two different pumps – one for recirculation and one for the features), and a pump can cost up to a couple thousand to replace.
  • You are purchasing recirculation equipment that will sit for nine months out of 12 unused (this is more common for northern states). Which requires winterizing your system (taking the water out), and you can have issues with gaskets and seals that can dry out.
  •  Children will drink the water, no matter how many times you tell them not to. Drinking the recirculated water is the same as drinking treated pool water and may give them gastro distress if they ingest too much or other illnesses.
  • You will need to have inspections done by the city and state a few times during the season to make sure you are logging everything correctly.
  • A pump house will be required for code because of all the equipment (more $).
  • The general liability costs for recirculation of a splash pad is through the roof (we had one customer tell us that it was $30K for liability insurance for a recirculation, so they switched to a freshwater system which took their insurance below $3,000).
  • It can take additional time depending on your Engineer and how quickly he draws the splash pad, plus extra revisions that need to be done to the design if you do not meet the city’s requirements the first time.
  • Federal mandates are that a bathroom is within 200 feet of the splash pad area, so if you do not have one already within the amount of feet needed then one will need to be built meeting other federal guidelines.
  • Another federal mandate is a dryzone around the splash pad – this can be from 5′ – 10′ wide as a sidewalk around the perimeter of the splash pad which can double size of the splash pad concrete.
  • You will have higher electric costs due to the pumps, filter, chlorinator, pH balancer, etc… and without knowing your electric costs, it could probably be $200+ a month, but this is not an exact estimate.
  • You will still have water costs due to evaporation, children taking the water off the pad with their bodies and toys, and you could end up paying more for electricity, water, chemicals, etc… In operating costs then, you would then just paying your water bill.

With the total maintenance cost that you have with electricity, a certified, licensed maintenance person, chemicals, extra liability insurance, you will have, etc. You can have a well dug for around $10K+ instead of spending the over $25k+ that you will have in for the recirculation equipment. Plus, you would not be paying for city water and would not have to pay for equipment that sits around for nine or so months of the year unused.

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Freshwater details

  • No added cost to your splash pad!
  • Since there is no equipment because you are running off of the city water supply and pressure, you have no additional equipment cost on the splash pad install – we attach to your water source.
  • The city will only need a line drawing done, which we supply you with at no extra cost – NO Sealed engineered drawings needed.
  • Very few permits, possibly a build permit because you are adding value, a plumbing permit IF there is not a water line on site that we can connect to, and an electrical permit IF there is not a GFI-protected outlet close.
  • No one has to come and check your chemicals since you are running off of city water pressure. Some people actually pay more for someone to check their chemicals each week than they would have paid for their city water usage if they had gone fresh water.
  • There is no extra upkeep costs, except your water costs and winterizing (if needed).
  • Since the water is coming from the city water supply or if you use a potable well, you do not have chemical costs and do not have to worry about the chemicals in the water with the possibility of someone getting skin irritations, burned, or swallowing the water because of the chemically treated water, but with fresh water, it is just like them drinking out of their kitchen sink or a public drinking fountain.
  • No inspections – depending on city and state regulations, some do not require inspections others may require once a year for their records.
  • There is no need for a pump house since there is no equipment, just an in-ground vault for the valves. 
  • NO dry zone sidewalk is required, so you keep your concrete costs down.
  • A freshwater installation is a quicker process, you will just go to your permitting office to show the line drawing of the pad, and you can get your permit so we can start as soon as our schedule allows. 
  • Lower liability insurance since there are no chemicals involved.
  • Low electric usage since the only electric part of the pad is a low-voltage bollard activator (if you choose one).
  • We connect to your supplied drain stub that usually leads to the city storm drain, so the water is going back to get sanitized and is not being wasted. You are using the city treatment plant as your sanitizing equipment without the cost and maintenance of all the equipment. 

Overall, a freshwater system is the simplest and best way to go. There is no costly maintenance with fresh water, or chemical liability, no issues with permits, no daily certified pool contractor, etc. You are only having to pay for your water usage, and that’s it. You can save $25K-$50K+ upfront and any maintenance costs in the future!

Want to see a couple of examples of freshwater splash pads that we’ve done? Check out the Chemical Free Home Splash Pad we installed or these Fresh Water Park Installations for Iberia, LA!