Snow Pit

The snow pit at the San Diego Ice Arena – photo courtesy of San Diego Ice Arena

Those of you who regularly read my posts on The Hockey Mom will know that I’m extremely interested in energy-saving methods for ice rinks. But energy isn’t my only waste issue: water is too. I’m want to know about, and educate my audience about ways that arenas aren’t just saving energy, but water too. The San Diego Ice Arena in San Diego, CA is doing just that. They’re repurposing their snow melt, no longer sending it down the drain. And by doing so, they’re turning melted snow into usable energy. It’s a story that all rink operators should read.

We Can’t Survive Without Water

But I have to preface it with another story.


Me and my latest book, Let There Be Water

I started following bestselling author Seth M. Siegel on Twitter a couple of months after reading an excerpt from his book, Let There Be Water on Israel’s solution for a water-starved world. Although I live in an area where water is abundant, I know many places struggle with water, even in North America, like drought-stricken California. I listen to his podcasts (and encourage you to do that, too). In his third podcast, he spoke with Pat Mulroy who headed the Southern Nevada Water Authority for several years. Near the end of the podcast, Mulroy made a statement that really struck a chord in me. She said, and I’m paraphrasing, that as human beings, we can survive without energy, but we can’t survive without water. So don’t we all have a duty to stop wasting water? I think we do.

Of course, ice rinks depend on water. According to the NHL, the average ice rink needs between 12,000 and 15,000 gallons of water just to lay a sheet of artificial ice. And that’s just the starting point.

Once it’s been laid, it needs to be maintained and, again, the maintenance is done with water. Most ice resurfacing machines have capacities of 200 gallons, so if you’re making 10 resurfaces a day, 7 days a week, you’re quickly up to 14,000 gallons of water a week. And that means, on a 12-month operation, around three quarters of a million gallons of water per sheet.

Water Waste

Each time you see the ice resurfacer go around the ice, it’s not just adding new water to the rink … it’s scraping off a layer of ice as it goes around. That fine layer of ice, which resembles snow, ends up in a “snow pit” where it melts and runs down a drain and directly into the sewage system. And many rink operators get the hose out and spray water on the snow to help it melt faster – so imagine the even greater water waste going on when they’re trying to do that!!!

Reclaiming the Snow

Contaminated water tank

The tank that contains the contaminated water from the resurfacing of the rink – Photo courtesy of San Diego Ice Arena

But many rinks are actively searching for ways to stop wasting that water, finding clever ways to repurpose it. What the folks have done at the San Diego Ice Arena (SDIA) is a great example. In the State of California, where businesses face potable water restrictions, the management at the SDIA looked at their water use and a found a way to stop letting it run down the drain. They installed a water reclaimer that’s turning their melted snow into usable energy.

The Water trail

From the tank to the pressure bladder – Photo courtesy of San Diego Ice Arena

With the reclaimer in place, now the snow from their ice resurfacer still ends up in the snow pit. But instead of ending up in the sewer, it goes to a large holding tank and from that tank, it’s pumped into a pressure bladder leading to the ice plant’s cooling tower. There it’s used to cool down the hot refrigerant that’s used to freeze the ice.

“Not only are we saving water, but we’ve lowered the rink’s cooling bill,” says SDIA co-owner, Philip Linssen.

Saving Water

The San Diego example isn’t the only one I’ve come across lately. Linssen was able to retrofit a water reclaiming system to his existing plant, but a new build that I recently wrote about, at the Keene Community Ice Arena in Keene, NH, uses an Ice3 system that reclaims the snow automatically for use by their cooling tower. By reclaiming that water, Keene ICE no longer needs any municipal water for their cooling tower, which makes Rick Martin, Keene ICE’s Operations Manager, very happy.

“Sustainability measures like these aren’t ‘Saving the planet’,” Martin says. “They’re ‘Saving the human race’.”

Indeed! Well done to both rinks — and keep up the good work.

Is your rink doing something extraordinary? Let me know. Post a comment and tell me the difference your team is making.

And… #LetThereBeWater.