Managing Water Parks, Pools and Water Bodies

From Aiken to Clover, Woodruff and others, city-run splash pads have sprung up around the state in recent years. Full-fledged water parks have as well — in 2018, the City of Hartsville opened Neptune Island Waterpark, a facility that won the city a Municipal Association Achievement Award this year. In the Town of Duncan, Shipwreck Cove Water Park marked its 10th season last year.

These parks, along with city-owned pools and recreational facilities on bodies of water, improve livability for residents and attract visitors. They also bring their own set of regulatory requirements and liability considerations, which tend to be severe when they do happen.

Water parks, splash pads
Some liability concerns for water attractions that receive less attention are the need for regular inspection and supervision for stairs and platforms — elements that can increase the potential for trips, slips and falls. Wading pools as well as zero-entry or beach-entry pools serve small children and inexperienced swimmers and need special attention from lifeguards. Wave pools also make lifeguarding duty more challenging, given the constant movement of the water's surface. Operators should also pay attention to the maintenance of disinfecting mechanisms for recirculating water, since breakdowns of this equipment can open the possibility of recreational water illnesses.

Swimming pools
Some key exposure issues for swimming pools, at a waterpark or otherwise, are improperly grounded electrical equipment as well as faded or otherwise illegible depth markings. A lack of proper fencing can also be an issue because of the legal doctrine of attractive nuisances. This holds that property owners should take steps to discourage children from trespassing to access something that can be reasonably anticipated to attract them, such as a pool.

Water bodies
For city parks established along lakes and rivers, signage is important, such as "swim at your own risk" warnings for areas without lifeguards. In some cases, the municipality may need to restrict, or prohibit altogether, activities such as swimming and fishing. Officials should also consider having adequate railings and keeping lifesaving equipment nearby for visitors to use.

State regulations
Cities and towns with water attractions can find guidance from the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control's Regulation 61-51, which regulates public swimming pools as well as other built, public facilities — the individual attractions at a water park or a splash pad. The regulation governs construction and design requirements, equipment, operation and maintenance. It also includes a 16-part list of required items for a pool rules sign and sets out the regulations for signs indicating that no diving is allowed or that no lifeguard is on duty.