Playground and water features

Playgrounds are occasionally built near natural water features, such as ponds, lakes, or streams. Other water features, like splash pads or wading pools, are incorporated into playground plans to add design interest and variability of play. Both types of features can pose a drowning hazard to young children.

Although older children are also susceptible to drowning, research indicates that young children (under five years of age) are most at risk because:

  • They can drown in as little as 2.5 centimetres (one inch) of water
  • They are attracted to water, but cannot understand the inherent risks
  • They lack balance and coordination which increases their risk of falling into bodies of water

To address this risk, active adult supervision (staying within both sight and reach) is strongly recommended for children under five years of age. For older children, staying within sight and reach also helps to reduce drowning risks.

Standards for public wading pools or splash pads

Splash pads are not covered in the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Standard for Children's Play Spaces. The newest version of the standard, published in 2007, provides some recommendations to consider when water features are located in close proximity to playgrounds, but these guidelines are not part of the official set of standards. In the CSA Standard, water features are described as a design feature that can promote creativity and enjoyment to children. However, this also presents a risk for drowning.

The CSA Standard outlines the need for equipment to drain effectively so that water is not trapped or collected – forming a pool. Standing water creates a drowning hazard; it also presents additional public health related concerns such as bacteria growth.

Any broken or damaged splash pad equipment requires immediate attention to avoid an injury or drowning risk.