Pools & Spas Case Study: Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa

SP_MarriottFew resorts in the world can offer guests the opportunity to swim amongst tropical fish, snorkel through an amazingly real looking artificial reef and explore the wonders of the sea in complete safety.

Yet, the five star Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort and Spa on the Gold Coast offers all this in their $8 million water playground.


Spread over a hectare, this incredible aquatic playground consists of a 5m deep saltwater lagoon, swimming pool, lava waterslide, waterfalls, rock grottos and spas.

The lagoon pool holds an incredible 1.6 million litres of salt water – sourced from the nearby Nerang River – which is continuously filtered by pumps located adjacent to the lagoon.

Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa’s director of engineering, Stephen Coombs – who has been at the property for more that eight years – said the lagoon pool water is re-circulated 24 hours a day by a large commercial filtration system.

“The lagoon has two filter pumps of 75 kilowatts each capable of filtering the 1.7 million litres of water every 90 minutes. The swimming pool is 660,000l and is turned over (filtered) once every four hours. This turn over rate is less than the lagoon only because the swimming pool is fresh water and has chemicals introduced allowing us to reduce the filtration rate. Because the lagoon is a natural environment for the fish it cannot have any chemicals added to the water and therefore, has to have a higher filtration rate to clean the water sufficiently.”

Instead of chemically disinfecting the lagoon water, Stephen uses a mechanical disinfectant process using ozone, which is produced on-site.

"The ozone has a very short activation period, which allows us to use it in conjunction with the filtration to clean the lagoon water without harming the fish. Ozone acts as an oxidising agent in a similar way to chlorine attacking any organic matter in the water and effectively destroying it. It is highly effective and with the short activation it is able to be totally eliminated from the water long before it returns to the lagoon. It is also very cost effective when compared to other methods when used in this type of application. Ozone is also used as a baseline disinfectant in the swimming pool with chlorine added to maintain the required residual levels required under the legislation.

"To maintain the correct pH in the swimming pool carbon dioxide is injected into the water where it converts to carbonic acid, this is a much safer method of control than using hydrochloric acid. The other benefit is the water clarity and quality is significantly improved, the water feels softer and has a definite sparkle to it.

"We are constantly refurbishing or upgrading the equipment to maintain the highest quality water in all of our water features. In the last two years we have added a protein skimmer to the lagoon to assist in removing the compounds responsible for foaming, replaced the ozone generator and added a high efficiency air dryer, the dryer the air entering the ozone generator the more ozone produced, upgraded all of the water chemistry monitoring equipment, overhauled the two lagoon filter pumps and installed a bore water treatment plant to supply treated harvested water to our water features. Monitoring and maintenance is a constant process we do to ensure that our guest have a safe, secure and enjoyable experience whilst swimming in the pools.”


With the lagoon, the fish, pool, spas, waterslide and multiple water features, Stephen oversees the department with the valuable assistance of two full-time water technicians. The technicians are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the water playground.

“There is a tremendous amount of work involved with maintaining this aquatic playground. The water techs are responsible for pretty much everything from cleaning, water testing to feeding the fish. Feeding time is at 9.30 every morning and hotel guests are invited to participate. Depending on how long the fish have been here, some will come and take the food right out of your hand.”

There are more than 400 tropical fish residing in the lagoon, including species such as the Moon Wrasse, Blue and Domino Damsel, Surgeon and Trigger fish and Sargent Major.

Stephen said the fish are sourced locally and from Cairns.

“Locally we get the schooling type fish and then some of the more spectacular species we get from a registered collector out of Cairns. We top the fish up every so often because it is similar to a natural environment, some of the fish will be predatory.”

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