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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