FROM FIXING LEAKS AND UPDATING DRINKING FOUNTAINS to adding drip irrigation in landscaping, there are several simple ways to save water (and money) while being a good community citizen.
The Denver Zoo decreased water use by 60%, resulting in a cumulative savings of 2.5 billion gallons of water over the past 15 years.
“Our biggest celebrations come from the individual efforts our staff make to keep dialing back our water use,” says Jennifer Hale, senior director of campus management and sustainability at the Denver Zoo. “In 2018, our Life Support Systems team implemented a handful of minor equipment modifications and small technology upgrades, resulting in a 4-million-gallon savings.”
One simple switch all attractions can make comes in the form of new drinking fountains. The zoo worked with its water utility company, Denver Water, to convert existing drinking fountains into water bottle refill stations. The move encourages visitors to bring refillable bottles, and thus reduces the amount of single-use plastic bottles disposed of at the zoo.
Additionally, Hale says as areas are redeveloped, irrigation water is switched from tap water to reclaimed water (treated, yet nonpotable).
“Our horticulture team has incorporated water-wise landscaping where feasible and is complementary to the thematic of our existing exhibit designs,” Hale says, adding by 2025, the Denver Zoo has a goal to be a zero-waste campus.
Watering of a different kind takes place at the Vancouver Aquarium. The facility harvests rainwater collected from rooftops following a storm, and then uses the water to flush toilets, replacing the use of tap water. Also in restrooms, the Vancouver Aquarium has installed low-flow toilets and showers. The initiative led to the aquarium being recognized as one of Canada’s Greenest Employers for the second consecutive year.
Over the past dozen years, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has saved 1 billion gallons of water, enough to provide water (indoor and outdoor use) for 10,000 Ohio households for a year.
The reduction saved the zoo millions of dollars on water bills—money now reinvested in infrastructure. It started by fixing leaks in exhibit pools, installing low-flow faucets and fixtures, upgrading filtration systems, and working closely with the local Metropolitan Sewage District to create rain gardens in low spots where stormwater collects. These simple gardens with thirsty plants are designed to collect rainwater from downspouts and pavement, thus reducing storm water runoff, erosion, and flooding.
Watering Wisdom: Simple Steps to Start
Attractions can consider these water-saving ideas when adding upgrades, planning new construction, or just watering the flowers this summer:
- Water early in the morning to reduce the evaporation rate.
- If irrigation water spills onto guest walkways, divide the watering time into two shorter sessions to prevent overflow that waters paved areas.
- Drip irrigation is effective at preventing evaporation and runoff. Mulched areas benefit since water directly soaks into the soil without washing away the mulch.
- Convert drinking fountains to water bottle refill stations to encourage the use of refillable bottles.
- Fix leaking pools and water slides, and upgrade filtration systems.
- Invest in certified water-saving appliances at food and beverage facilities.
- Consider high-efficiency fixtures when updating restrooms.