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In third year of drought, water park is proposed in Buford
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Environmentalists say they’re dumbfounded about a real estate company’s proposal to build a 200,000-square-foot water park in Buford while the state remains in a drought.

Sally Bethea is executive director of the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, a Georgia water protection group. She calls the idea "absolutely insane."

A managing partner of Georgia Land and Commercial Solutions, Chad Lagomarsino, declined to give details, saying only it will start off as a 50,000-square-foot indoor water park as part of a larger development.

Georgia has entered the third year of its drought. Atlanta area residents and businesses are coping with outdoor watering restrictions. Georgia is battling Florida and Alabama over how much water the state can store in Lake Lanier.

The water park is part of a regional development called Buford Jubilee.

The site is bordered by Interstate 985, Buford Drive and Maddox Road. The plan includes two hotels with a combined 300 guest rooms, 275,000 square feet of retail space, 400,000 square feet of offices and 275 residential lofts, in addition to the water park.

Matt Freeby of Water Technology, a Wisconsin firm that designs and engineers aquatic facilities, said modern water parks are relatively efficient through recycling.

"With the average amount of water that is going through any pool or pipe at any given time, I would guess that 97 to 98 percent of that is recycled," Freeby said. "Where you lose water is not in the cleansing of the water," he said. "You lose it through evaporation or carry out, where a swimmer is either dripping or splashing."

The other water loss comes when the system is backwashed to clean the water.

Freeby said the need for backwashing is controlled by users.

"If people go in and take a soap shower before going in the pools, the contaminants don’t build up so quickly and you can backwash every other week," he said. "If people go straight in with a lot of baby oil or suntan lotion or their dirty or sweaty, you may have to backwash every three or four days."

A typical backwashing can eliminate 600 to 800 gallons per minute.

"That’s enough to water a good-size lawn," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.