How Drought Friendly is Garden Grove’s New Indoor Water Park?

Amid an historic statewide drought that is prompting homeowners to let lawns go brown and cities to crack down on wasteful water users, a $250 million indoor water park resort set to open in Garden Grove next year, has raised some eyebrows.

However, despite the bad visuals of resort guests frolicking in precious water resources during such a time, city officials and a spokesperson for the Great Wolf Lodge Water Park Hotel say the facility is equipped with a state-of-the-art system that recaptures and recycles 98 percent of the park’s water.

The Garden Grove project is not the only water park in the state that has drawn increased scrutiny since April, when Gov. Jerry Brown imposed a mandatory 25 percent reduction in water use statewide.

In the Northern California city of Dublin, residents have questioned the timing of construction of a $35 million outdoor water park, a 2007 project that was stalled during the recession. A water park deal in Temecula also fell through earlier this year after the project failed to secure financing and an assurance from the local water district that it would supply the park with water.

Yet, Susie Storey, communications director for Great Wolf Resorts, Inc., claims the entire water park will use less water than an Olympic-sized pool, or about 600,000 gallons of water.

“We take pride in having the best sanitation and filtration system technology in the industry so we can effective filter, treat and recirculate almost all of the waterpark’s water,” Storey wrote in an email. “Because our waterpark is indoors, we can control the humidity and temperature in the park, thus minimizing water loss due to evaporation.”

Construction of the indoor water park along Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove.

Construction of the indoor water park along Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove.

Officials in Garden Grove are keen on seeing the water park succeed, as the city has subsidized the project to the tune of $70 million. They’re also banking heavily on new sales and hotel room taxes generated from the project — an estimated $8 million a year — to help stabilize the city’s budget.

The water park project dates back to 2003, when the city’s redevelopment agency first began the process of acquiring the property, a former recreational vehicle park, which they ultimate transferred to the developer free of charge.

Construction was stalled starting in 2011, when the state eliminated redevelopment agencies to recoup property tax revenues for the state coffers. The project finally broke ground in 2014, and is slated to open next spring.

The Wisconsin-based company already owns and operates twelve water parks, and the Garden Grove location will be it thirteenth and largest. Prices will range from $250 to $600 a night.

Public Works Director Bill Murray says when you look at the big picture, water use at the hotel is not a concern given the resort’s recycling system. The state does not restrict filling recreational parks like the Great Wolf Lodge so long as they recycle and recirculate water, he said.

A greater concern is the city’s need to cut usage by 20 percent, the equivalent of filling 50 water park hotels, he said.

The average Garden Grove home uses 98 gallons a day.

For a family of four to stay in one hotel room and use the water park consumes about 231 gallons a day, according to a water assessment for the project. Compare that with about 150 gallons of water a day for a regular hotel room, Murray said.

The 600-room hotel will also need to comply with regulations for all hotels, such as asking guests to forgo daily laundering of linens and towels, and only serving drinking water upon request.

Storey adds that the resort is equipped with low-flow showers, toilets and faucets, and uses drought resistant landscaping.

“It certainly doesn’t help that the park is opening during the drought,” Murray said. “That being said we approved the water park in 2010 when we experienced 30% above normal rainfall. We were not in a drought when we executed the entitlement agreements with the developer.”

“Many residents think we should just stop construction, [but] unfortunately without a state mandate to do so we would be sued,” Murray added.

Learn more about county water conservation rebate programs at

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  • Bruce Byrd

    This is a good thing notice how all negativism is not a face to it

  • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

    This Great Wolf development is huge and right in our faces. I am looking forward to the autumn season, right before El Nino hits, when surely, they will be planting Moso timber bamboo all around that southeast corner. That humongous Little Tykes on steroids funnel and pipes needs coverage. Moso bamboo gets to be 100 feet tall and will effectively block that plastic from our daily view. It is rude to have designed it to face the very low income neighborhoods that will never be able to take their children there. Not.Nice.
    That the attraction is butted right next to the curb makes it even more blatant. Residents cannot put high fencing around their home closer than 24 feet from the curb, and yet this huge thing is okay to be that close. Special considerations for these huge companies, and none for the neighborhoods. Amazing double standards.
    And hey, does Great Wolf have to pay flood insurance like the east side, Grove District perimeter homeowners have been made to pay in order to finance all that the work on Harbor Blvd. Paid for by FEMA appropriated funding. Thanks Congresswoman Sanchez. You sure do fight for them hotels. All the homes that were eventually razed for the hotels? They were removed from the flood insurance maps so that the hotels would not have to worry about it when they took over, grabbed, the land. The working stiffs around them pay between 800-3000 a year! Congresswoman? Any answers to this? We have asked you for years to “esplain”.

  • Ponytail__

    The water park is for hotel guests only. Local residents still have to use their backyard swimming pool. The hotel and water park is incredibly ugly eyesore.But hey, Garden Grove is just the pathway to Disneyland

  • dc matthews

    It is water-smart to have Community water features vs back yard pools etc for a SFD. What we need to look at is BIZ fountains and other water used as decor. Unless its helping to sustain wildlife THAT is misuse. WE need to look at lawns and yard areas that are not being used to grow food and rethink all that.

  • Paul Lucas

    This “water park” was a bad idea when it was conceived and its an even worse idea now. Scrap it.

    • BeeBee.BeeLeaves

      Too late Paul. There are 232 green card investors (EB-5) which invested $116 million (500K each) green backs in order to not be wet backs. That is how some of the funding to build this was structured after the State of California pulled the Redevelopment plug/rug from under them. I just hope these investors were vetted by the State department.

  • Smeagel4T

    Well actually… the optics may be bad, but since this water park is indoors it is probably more water efficient than people’s backyard swimming pools. It may very well be a way for people to cool off in the summer that is more water efficient than other existing options. Is the local high school or college swimming pool any more or less water efficient?

  • David Zenger

    Good to see Bill Murray is still doing comedy.