Slide the City causes water debates

Rund Khayyat

Slide the City, a Utah-based water slide company, wants to transform the streets of Austin into a 1,000-foot vinyl slip and slide.

The company tours the country, making stops in more than 20 cities each year. Austin is on this year’s list of locations, but the company has not set a date, partly because of the water conservation concerns the City of Austin posed.

The summer tour is coming amid a stage-two drought, which is defined as when water in lakes Travis and Buchanan fall below a minimum supply level, according to Austin Water Utility. 

“Our reservoirs are a little over half full, and this is only exacerbated by the growing population,” said Lauren Hodges, geography sophomore and Green Events student leader for the Campus Environmental Center. “It’s a pretty contentious issue.”

According to Slide the City’s website, the slide is designed to have minimal environmental impact, and it treats and recycles the water efficiently. The slide circulates approximately 12,000–20,000 gallons of water per day.

Austin Water Utility has advised that this type of water use is currently prohibited because of the drought, and Slide the City will have to find alternative methods.

“Our city manager has enacted Drought Response Stage 2, which prohibits operation of fountains with an aerial emission of water or aerial fall of water greater than four inches,” Austin Water Utility spokesman Jason Hill said. “This is the case whether or not the intent is to recapture the water.”

Slide the City states on its website that it donates the water back to the community centers, parks, golf courses and other places when city officials allow. These techniques are not enough for efficient water conservation, said Jaclyn Kachelmeyer, international relations and global studies senior and director of the Campus Environmental Center.

“We will waste a lot of energy to pump the water and then clean and recycle it,” Kachelmeyer said. “It’s also impossible not to lose a lot of water from evaporation and it sticking to people, etc.”

Last fall, Austin declared a two-year moratorium on non-traditional events, such as Slide the City, in the downtown and South Austin area, specifically bordered by Oltorf Street and Barton Skyway, according to the Austin American-Statesman. The moratorium would disallow new events to shut down streets in those areas, 

Kachelmeyer said she thinks the slide would be an unnecessary waste of water.

“We don’t need to pump water and set up slides to have fun in Austin,” Kachelmeyer said. “We can take advantage of Austin’s wonderful local elements, like Lady Bird Lake, without being wasteful.”

Radio-television-film sophomore Katherine Brookshire said she thinks the water slide would be fun to see.

“I would want to go see it just to say I was there,” Brookshire said. “I don’t think I’d actually want to go do it. … It sounds kind of dangerous.”