U.S. Water News Online
PHILADELPHIA -- You can tell humans to cut back on water
consumption during a drought, but just try giving that order to a
As people are being asked to take shorter showers and hold off
watering their lawns because of water shortages, zoo officials
nationwide say they have to be creative in conservation efforts
because local health regulations restrict them from cutting back on
water used for animals.
From high-pressure hoses used for cleaning to huge pools full of
entirely recycled water to the elimination of water as a plaything,
zoos are trying to find ways to save water as communities become
increasingly aware of droughts and how new development is drawing
down water tables.
At the Philadelphia Zoo, which used about 620 million gallons of
water over the past year, workers have tried to conserve by revamping
huge pools so they use recycled water. The 42-acre zoo is in
Philadelphia, which, like many parts of southeastern Pennsylvania, is
under a drought emergency.
Andy Baker, vice president for animal programs at the zoo, said
officials hope to have all pools using recycled water within two
``Our focus is really on the long term,'' Baker said. ``Everyone
becomes more conscious of these things in a drought situation.''
The zoo is required to clean the cages every day and provide
animals with ample drinking water -- elephants can chug up to 50
gallons a day. Workers have begun using special irrigation systems to
save water and cut back on watering plants.
Philadelphia is not alone. The Denver Zoo has been aggressively
looking for ways to save water for about two years, spokeswoman Ana
While the animals must be cleaned, keepers now bathe large animals
using the ``Navy shower'' concept, by turning the water on only when
And at a time when the area faces a water shortage, Bowie said one
of the elephants' favorite playtime activities has also been stopped:
no more getting sprayed for fun.
``This is really the first hard time we've been hit with,'' she
One of the world's most well-known zoos, the San Diego Zoo, is
implementing similar measures. While the zoo isn't under specific
restrictions now, it has been asked by the state to cut back as much
as possible, San Diego Zoo spokeswoman Yadira Galindo said.
Galindo said that, over the past decade, the zoo reduced its water
usage by 75 percent. Right now, she said, the major focus is on doing
a complete overhaul of all pools, so they all use entirely recycled
``We can't be just dumping that water on a daily basis,'' Galindo
said of the zoo's pools, some of which hold more than 130,000 gallons
The zoo, which has 4,000 animals and is famous for its rare
species of pandas, crocodiles and other animals, is also
experimenting with other methods of saving water, including waterless
urinals that are being used by zoo employees and visitors.
At the zoo-affiliated San Diego Wild Animal Park, there is also a
plant that treats up to 6 million gallons of human wastewater a year
to irrigate the park.
Lindsay Nantz, a spokeswoman for the Fort Worth Zoo in Texas, said
sometimes water conservation means just cutting back on watering
``The animal's well-being is our first concern,'' Nantz said.
``We're going to cut back everywhere else before we cut back there.''
The Fort Worth Zoo last faced water restrictions in July 2001 and
she said the zoo has focused on watering plants less and replacing
old pools with ones that use recycled water. In some cases, workers
have found that old systems were wasting hundreds of thousands of
gallons of water. So, the zoo recently put up a $20 million building
with a water filtration system to cut down on water waste.
At the Bronx Zoo in New York City, officials also said systems
need to be upgraded.
General curator Jim Doherty said the zoo is still working on
making all its pools use recirculated water and to install
automatically refilling drinking containers for animals. Water has
also been turned off at waterfalls and a well-known fountain at its
entrance, one donated by the Rockefeller family.
``Everything else is just being sensible,'' Doherty said.
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