How Much Water Will Garden Grove's Great Wolf Lodge Use in This Crazy Drought?

Gabriel San Roman / OC Weekly

Construction continues along Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove for the Great Wolf Lodge, a huge water park hotel slated to open in 2016. California is also well into the fourth year of a great big drought, the worst in centuries. The need for conservation has the city moving into a Stage 2 Water Alert on Saturday. Regulations will tighten on everything from watering lawns, washing cars and filling swimming pools on specific days and times. Ornamental fountains of any kind are banned.

But if the drought continues, as many scientists predict, will the Great Wolf Lodge open as a water hog in the worst of times?

The answer to how much water the 603-room hotel resort will be using isn't in their environmental impact reports. The Weekly reviewed both of them from 2009 and 2010. So grand is the project that it needed a separate water supply assessment study as required by state law.

Noting it "atypical" compared to select Anaheim hotels, the October 2010 report states that the Great Wolf Lodge, together with a restaurant slated next to it, will use 149,500 gallons of water per day! That's more than half an acre-foot of water PER DAY. The stats sway conservatively on the assumption the hotel resort will be a smashing hit with tourists ensuring maximum occupancy all year round.

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Will the demand for water in dry times place a strain on the city? "No, we have the infrastructure, the pumping and importing ability to deliver the water," says Public Works Director and Interim Water Manager Bill Murray (not the actor, alas). The report issued a year before the historic drought started concluded the same through 2029-2030, even when accounting for three consecutive dry years--but not four and certainly not to this degree.

With the drought, Garden Grove does have to make big cuts, though. In January, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency following it up by ordering mandatory water restrictions last month. The city must reduce its water use by 28 percent. Its water woes made national news in a recent Associated Press report.

"That will become a problem and if the water park plays a part in that, it's a small part," Murray says. He reports the city used 26,400 acre-feet of water (one acre-foot = 325,851 gallons) last year. In 2010, they almost used 29,000 AFY.

"We would have to reduce the equivalent of another fifty water park hotels," Murray says calculating by last year's numbers. "Yes, the water park adds to our problem with meeting the Governor's mandatory reduction but we have a massive problem." The Weekly requested comment from the Great Wolf Lodge to no avail.

Going into a Stage 2 Water Alert is a first step. Murray understands that construction of a huge water park while restricting water use by residents is going to rub some the wrong way. The hotel resort is especially geared towards tourists with pricey admission to it depending on renting a room.

"Is it fair that while residents are asked to limit their use of water the Great Wolf Lodge is allowed to go through over a half-million gallons a week? Hell no!" says Josh McIntosh. "Our leaders have never demanded that our new hotels and projects are built with the highest green standards." The Garden Grove resident been a longtime opponent of the project getting free land and massive subsidies.

"There was not an issue when the entitlements were done," Murray says. "The horse is already out of the corral."

Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @gsanroman2

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