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Aquatic Recreation in the West - Dispel Water Use Myths

How To Secure Support Of A New Community Pool

By Christa Plaza & Kristen Hodel - April 14, 2023

Aquatic Recreation in the West - Dispel Water Use Myths
Aquatic recreation in the West—given the long-term drought, what is the future of pools for our communities? While the recent rain and snow across the West have temporarily eased extreme conditions in some areas, municipalities are heading indicators and implementing water conservation policies. For example, in 2022, Aurora, Colorado, implemented a new water conservation ordinance prohibiting nonfunctional cool weather turf in new developments. In addition, at the State level, the Colorado Water Conservation Board is developing a Turf Replacement Program to incentivize the voluntary replacement of nonessential irrigated turf. While these restrictions have not directly impacted our ability to fill swimming pools, our communities are wondering, are we being responsible?

As an architecture firm that designs pools and aquatic facilities, we take responsibility for working with parks and recreation professionals to dispel myths about water use for aquatic recreation. For example, at the 2022 Colorado Parks and Recreation Association annual conference in Breckenridge, four colleagues and I led a panel discussion on the state of aquatic recreation in the West.

Carol Cosby, Director of Parks and Recreation, Pueblo West Metro District, discussed navigating the impacts of water restrictions while planning to build a new aquatic center. In 2022, the Metro District underwent a water moratorium on new taps putting a spotlight on water consumption. As a result, the community voiced concerns over the amount of water needed to operate a new aquatic center. While the moratorium is lifted, fundraising for the facility remains underway, and distributing facts about the pool’s water requirements is critical to the project’s success. Carol is leading the effort to ensure the community knows there are far wiser water conservation options than limiting public pool access.

Swimming is essential to public health; to pull the plug (all puns intended) is irresponsible for public health. Drowning is the #1 cause of unintentional death of children aged 1-4 years, and public swimming facilities play a crucial role in preventing drownings. While only 56% of Americans have the five basic swimming skills, aquatics rank high on the community “wish” surveys (Swimming Pools in the US - Industry Data, Trends, Stats | IBISWorld). It is typical for parks and recreation swimming programs to reach capacity. 

Presenting the facts and relatable comparisons about water usage is vital to garnering support. 
One of the myths to dispel is that pools require too much water. The truth is that with proper maintenance and operations, a pool consumes considerably less water annually than is commonly perceived, far less than some other recreation amenities. For example:
  • A natural turf field in Colorado requires about 2.6 million gallons.
  • A 150-acre golf course takes 200 million gallons.
  • A typical 25-yard lap pool uses around 500,000 gallons.
For municipalities preparing to take the idea of a new pool to a public vote, a few best practices have been proven to increase the odds of passing a funding measure. During the CPRA presentation, panelists Scott Hickman, Carbon Valley Parks and Recreation District, Connor Riley, P.E., Studio Director, Kevin Post, Principal, Counsilman-Hunsaker, discussed pool water conservation best practices and community outreach. According to Counsilman-Hunsaker, pool projects that include community outreach average a 50% chance of moving forward;  those without have only a 30% chance. Plan for 6 to 12 months of outreach before going to voters with a funding vote and focus on presenting “why it is worth it.”

Talk, talk, talk! Get the work out to garner support. Information stations at high-traffic user groups locations, like, schools, recreation facilities, and grocery stores, staffed with informed and enthusiastic volunteers, quickly inform passersby about the benefits of voting ‘yes.’ Distributing concise talking points to be used in social media posts, local advertising, printed materials, and “town hall” meetings. Take the opportunity to dispel myths about irresponsible water usage. State exactly how much $ it will cost per household and the benefits that will be realized—the list is lengthy and proven. Stakeholders are eager to engage in focus groups and provide a platform to understand concerns and wishes. Gain the backing of community leaders by inviting them to participate. Create customized community engagement tools to help bridge what is realistic while allowing creative solutions to develop.

For more information about pool design and to obtain pool water consumption facts, contact Essenza Architecture


Our clients share their experiences. See how Essenza Architecture can help you conceive your vision

By Christa Plaza - July 16, 2020

Our clients share their experiences. See how Essenza Architecture can help you conceive your vision
“Essenza Architecture created a world of fun and good family times for our citizenry and surrounding region at the Great Outdoors Waterpark in Lafayette.  One of many projects successfully designed and executed in Lafayette, Essenza Architecture played a key role in making sure our constituents were provided the best possible experience and enhancement to the community’s quality of life.”
Monte Stevenson, Director Parks, Recreation & Open Space Dept., City of Lafayette CO 

 “Essenza provided the very best personalized attention to every detail of the project and the relationship with the staff, the board of directors, and community members.  Essenza ensured our facility was as environmentally friendly as our budget could afford.  We were able to qualify for utility rebates due to the systems and construction processes put in place.  Essenza worked with us to understand the benefits and costs of each and every component of our building.  Essenza truly understood our desires and our budget and worked tirelessly to ensure we were able to deliver a completed project to our community on-time and on-budget.  Their understanding of my vision and their thorough design skill ensured our project became the centerpiece of the community.

Essenza helped us through the entire construction process by working with our contractor to ensure every aspect of the project was completed, inspected, and approved.  Essenza was with us the entire way from initial inception to the ribbon cutting and beyond.  They met every deadline we asked of them and went above and beyond to help us ensure the project was completed on-time.

Without Essenza’s presentations and support at our public meetings, we never would have convinced our community to support the mil levy increase.  Essenza provided all documents, presentations, and artistic renderings to show the community what we planned to deliver.  The greatest part is that those initial concept drawings were perfect representations of the final project.  I can’t tell you how many community members thanked me for staying true to our promise.

Christa was there with me the entire time… she was relentless in staying in contact with me, guiding me, and helping me make decisions to keep the project moving forward.  She totally understands what it takes to keep a project on track.  From weekly meetings with the general contractor to assisting me with equipment and furniture selections and layouts, Christa was a rock star.”

Dane Matthew, Past Director CCMRD, Idaho Springs CO

“I am writing this as an enthusiastic letter of recommendation for our amazing architect, Christa Plaza of Essenza Architecture in Lafayette, Colorado.

Our first step was to create a presentation for the Parker Town Council aimed at convincing them that our proposed tennis facility was the best use for their 5 acres.  We began by having Christa evaluate the 5 acre plot and create a Site layout that maximized the space and amenities.  Christa’s design was very well received by Council and our project was unanimously approved by Council, the project could move forward.

We hired Christa to fully design our facility which included; six indoor tennis courts, four outdoor tennis courts, welcome center, a patio, a courtyard, and parking.  Christa created a fantastic and unique design always asking for input along the way, she showed incredible patience as she explained the very basics to us, sometimes several times.

Once we decided upon and loved the facility design Christa walked us through the submittal and Site approval process with the Town of Parker.  I have been told by other developers that the Town of Parker is one of the most demanding towns to build in as they have severe restrictions and standards for contractors, architects, and owners.  As expected, the Site approval process was long and sometimes frustrating, Christa’s knowledge and patience was invaluable as we went through the process.” 

Once again, our Team would enthusiastically recommend Christa Plaza to anyone seeking to design and build. 

Barry Riddle, Parker Racquet Club, Operating Manager, Parker CO

Designing with Pre-Manufactured Metal Buildings (PEMB)

By Christa Plaza - June 7, 2020

Designing with Pre-Manufactured Metal Buildings (PEMB)
Even though this is a common form of building construction, many architects, contractors, and owners have never been involved in a project that uses one. It may be that people think of them as unattractive or lacking character. However, because these buildings go up relatively quickly and require fewer sub-contractors on site. PEMB buildings can be a cost-effective solution for many projects.

PEMBs are an economical solution for structures for many reasons: 1) As mentioned above they go up relatively quickly. 2) Thick cavity walls and super saver insulation systems allow for a superior high performing envelope. 3) The number of trades is reduced, thus reducing overall shell costs, making it very economical to build. 4) Finally, the building code allows for the steel used in the buildings to be light and efficient. This may reduce the type of materials that can be used as finishes. However, that can be overcome with quality and creative architectural design.

How Indoor Lighting Helps Craft Rec Facility Environments

July 2019

How Indoor Lighting Helps Craft Rec Facility Environments
As lighting consultant and educator Thomas Farin notes, "Light is the first element of design; without it there is no color, form or texture." One could make the argument for adding "purpose" to that list. At the Eagle Pointe Recreation Center in Commerce City, Colorado, different lighting approaches were strategically employed to make each program area more conducive to a particular activity.

The Great Outdoors Water Park

The Great Outdoors Water Park
The Great Outdoor Waterpark opened in May of 2018 in Lafayette, Colorado. The park features a leisure pool, two water slides, and a lazy river with a design that brings the outdoor feel of the mountains to the waterpark. Elements of nature education are set throughout the park--native plants with descriptive plaques, and tracks from animals native to the area were stamped in the concrete. The project also incorporates highly efficient equipment and all LED lighting. The bathhouse itself is also representative of the great outdoors. It has a timber roof and is reflective of many mining buildings.