Q. How do you calculate the gallons of water an elephant uses?
A. Very carefully.
Calculating water consumption, and looking for ways to reduce it, is no small task. To find the answers, the Denver Zoo turned to Denver Water’s conservation team, which provided an ultrasonic water meter to track water use on everything from antelopes to zebras.
The meter connects to pipes and measures flow rate and water consumption throughout the zoo. Data from the meter will be used in an audit to identify inefficient operations, pinpoint leaks and allow the zoo to set efficient water-use goals.
“Water conservation is part of our mission to secure a better world for our animals,” said Jennifer Hale, Denver Zoo director of safety and sustainability. “We want to keep resources viable for a long time.”
The zoo has saved 2.5 billion gallons in the past 15 years. Last year, Denver Water provided the zoo with $43,000 as part of the water-saving incentive program and is now helping with the water-use audit.
The zoo is using the money from the incentive program to convert the irrigation system around the giraffe barn from potable water to recycled water. A new pump and filtration system will clean and recycle water in a pond and maintain the water quality; a high-efficiency toilet pilot program will determine the best fixtures for such a high-use area.
Those projects will save an estimated 5.2 million gallons of water annually. “The zoo has made enormous strides cutting water use, and it is very exciting to see the zoo now calculating its water efficiency,” said Mark Cassalia, a Denver Water conservation specialist.
Hale said 35 percent of the zoo’s water comes from Denver Water’s Recycling Plant. Recycled water is wastewater treated to a standard suitable for irrigation, commercial and industrial uses.
Relying on recycled water reduces the demand on Denver Water’s reservoirs for drinking water. The zoo has plans to expand its use of recycled water in the future.
Water efficiency is a part of the cultural philosophy at the zoo and fits with its overall mission. “Every person on staff plays a role looking for ways to be more efficient — little things really can make a difference,” Hale said. “We can’t tell our visitors to be stewards of the environment if we are not doing it ourselves.”
And just in case you were wondering, your typical elephant uses about 20 to 30 gallons of water every day!