Pumping La Primavera

Pump project replicates Colombian river system in luxury shopping center

Above: La Primavera Urbana, a luxury Colombian shopping center, replicated an Andes Mountains river system during a seven-month project.

La Primavera Urbana is one of Colombia’s newest luxury shopping centers and home to one of the most ambitious water features in South America. Effectively replicating the natural beauty of the waterways found in the nearby Andes Mountains, the $2.3 million water feature boasts a river system, waterfalls, locally sourced vegetation, scenic rock formations and an array of native fish species. La Primavera Urbana is located in the city of Villavicencio, 47 miles southeast of the Colombian capital of Bogota. Construction of the shopping center’s water feature lasted seven months, from November 2015 to May 2016.

The management team at La Primavera Urbana chose St. Charles, Ill.-based Aquascape to design and construct the new water feature. The team previously had success with one of the company’s small pond kits on one of its residential properties. Aquascape further left an impression on La Primavera Urbana’s management when it was featured on Pond Stars, a television series on the Nat Geo WILD network that focuses on the company’s designs. 

La Primavera Urbana’s management team traveled to Chicago, where it met with Aquascape’s owners and designers and toured a number of prominent local water features, including the historic Shedd Aquarium. During the visit, the officials relayed their plans to create a shopping experience that recreated the beauty of Colombia’s natural environment. The result is a feat of engineering that draws upon both nature and the latest technologies available to the water feature industry.

Ed Beaulieu, director of field research and contractor development for Aquascape, designed the water feature in 10 days. While it was intended to connect people with nature, Beaulieu said its foundation relied on field-proven pumping technology.

“We designed environmentally sound wetland filtration systems, and we sourced local wildlife and boulders from the surrounding area to make the space as authentic as possible,” Beaulieu said. “The only mechanical components of the whole feature were the pumps, which needed to run as efficiently as possible while handling high amounts of solids-laden water.”

Solutions for Solids

The river system at the shopping mall consists of three separate water features, each of which is filled using an intake system that pumps groundwater from beneath the building and, when precipitation allows, rainwater from the roof. Once the bases of each feature are filled, water is recirculated in a continuous loop through a 6-in. piping system that gradually splits off into 3-in. pipes, branching off a second and final time into 1-in. pipes. 

Dispersed water cascades down a system of sculpted earth that gradually slopes toward an intake bay designed to appear as a natural pond to onlookers—it is here the water is recycled and reused. Using a system of strategically placed spray jets, organic debris is moved along the floor of the river system toward a large reservoir where water is filtered through a natural system of wetland filtration, which uses gravel laced with bacteria to convert fish waste into usable nutrients for native plants such as canna and papyrus.

The job required pumps that, when combined, could move up to 435,000 gal per hour (gph) of solids-laden water while reducing electrical costs and minimizing downtime. To meet these specifications, Aquascape selected a lineup of 10 Tsurumi pumps, including three 15-hp KRS2-8S submersible dewatering pumps, four 10-hp KRS2-A6 submersible dewatering pumps and three 1-hp 12PN water feature pumps.

“I didn’t want the maintenance staff to worry about the inevitable collection of solids clogging the pumps,” Beaulieu said. “You’ve got to be able to move anywhere from 7,500 to 10,000 gph per foot of waterfall width to create a natural-looking white-water effect. When you consider the fish waste and aquatic vegetation that are bound to accumulate in the river system during operation, it’s crucial to have pumps on hand that easily handle solids.” 

The pumps were chosen for their ability to handle the spherical solids found in wastewater or slurry through their impellers without incident; all solids that flowed through the water feature would need to pass intact, without grinding. The 12PN has a solids-handling capacity of 35 mm in diameter, while the KRS2-A6 and KRS2-8S can handle solids measuring 25 and 30 mm in diameter, respectively. 

Illinois-based Aquascape designed rock formations and used local vegetation to create an authentic-looking water feature.

Low-Energy System

Another challenge on the project was keeping energy costs low. The cost of electricity in Colombia runs fairly high—much higher than in North America. Beaulieu credited his lineup of pumps with keeping electrical costs at a minimum. 

“With large water features that involve wildlife and vegetation, at least one pump needs to be continuously running for filtration purposes,” Beaulieu said. “Electricity is expensive in Colombia—Tsurumi pumps help us to move the maximum volume of water using the minimum amount of electrical consumption.”

One of Aquascape’s biggest challenges during its time at La Primavera Urbana was to come up with a system that would minimize downtime, which meant selecting a series of pumps that could run continuously. In the past, the company had issues with pumps that exposed their mechanical seals to water, which often led to corrosion and intrusion that could cause pump failure. Selecting pumps with sufficient insulation was crucial to the project’s success.

“Tsurumi uses silicon carbide seals on all of its pumps and insulates that seal in a bath of oil, protecting it from outside moisture,” Beaulieu said. “These pumps create the specific white-water effect you expect to see from a waterfall and they do it without fail. And by minimizing downtime, we’re able to create a more immersive experience that mimics nature in a more convincing way.”

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