In the city of Dublin, 35 miles inland from San Francisco, the municipality and its residents have been diligent about saving water. As California endures the worst drought in its history, children are taught water-saving measures in schools, while fountains are shut off and golf courses are kept green with recycled water. In many ways, the city exemplifies how a community can best respond to drought. Except for one major factor: Dublin is currently building a $43.8 million water park that will be filled with 480,000 gallons of water.
Dublin’s Emerald Glen water park—or “recreation and aquatics center”—has been in the works for 10 years, conceived of prior to the drought when snow packs were full and water was relatively plentiful. But the project stalled during the recession, and the ground-breaking didn’t take place until March 6 this year. Which was, as Paul McCreary, the parks and community services director in Dublin told the New York Times, “very unfortunate timing.”
One April 1, California Governor Jerry Brown announced emergency measures to substantially reduce the state’s water usage. And that’s when protests from some of Dublin’s 52,000 residents, and those further afield, gained momentum. A Change.org petition has been launched, and opponents have been highly vocal in the media.
Dublin officials, however, are attempting to downplay the project. They describe it as an update to 1970s municipal facilities, one that will be utilized by the local school and its swim team. Moreover, it will be a place where kids can learn to swim. But that depiction is a little hard to swallow. As the NYT describes, it’s not exactly a facility designed strictly for perfecting one’s backstroke:
“[T]he new center will have six colossal slides pouring off a nearly five-story tower, two curlicuing from the 48-foot platform. A contraption with buckets will douse those cavorting below, and there will be a spray area for children and three pools. It will take 480,000 gallons of water to fill the park.”
Local officials have responded with highly mixed messages, with the city’s website explaining “The current drought should not be the driving factor for building a long-term investment/facility for the community. The complex is expected to be ready for occupancy in early 2017, which means that there are still two winter seasons prior to its opening.” Meanwhile McCreary told the local CBS affiliate: “If we finish the project and we’re still in a drought, and we can’t fill a pool, then we’ll address it at that time.”
Which is to say that come 2017, Dublin will either be home to an expensive, useless eyesore of a property—or an expensive, marginally useful facility that is a massive waste of water during a state-wide water crisis.