A Bay Area town, criticized for building a water park during a historic drought, did not back down

Chlorine. It’s the smell of summer, and it hit me squarely in the nose when I walked into a new water park in Dublin, Calif., early Tuesday morning.

A few women did laps in the indoor pool, under a translucent roof. Outside, in another large pool, teenage swim team members practiced under the gaze of their slightly older coaches.

Next to the water slides, the park director was instructing three new hires — young women who will monitor the slides — on how to communicate using hand signals.

Two years ago, this San Francisco Bay Area bedroom community came under some unaccustomed criticism for its plans to build this park.

California was more than three years into a historic drought, and despite that, Dublin had decided to plunge ahead with construction on a water park with six water slides, a kiddie play area and two huge pools — indoor and outdoor — for exercise, lessons and competitions.

What the heck were Dublin officials thinking?

“My talking point then was that we still have two winters to go before the park opens,” said Dublin Assistant City Manager Linda Smith as we toured the park Tuesday morning. “We needed to just wait and see what happens.”

That answer was not acceptable to many Californians, who were having it drummed into their heads that water was too precious to waste on lawns or swimming pools or even showers.

This was, you will recall, a time of widespread shaming, of holier-than-thou water conservationists berating neighbors for refusing to take 20-second showers, for buying almonds, for washing their dusty cars.

Never mind that Dublin was a poster child for municipal conservation, that almost all of its parks were irrigated with recycled water, that its residents had surpassed drought conservation goals.

To many, building a water park during a drought just seemed tone deaf.

But money had been allocated, contracts had been signed. Construction of the Wave, as…

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