The Zoo uses 40 million gallons of water per year for exhibits, irrigation and cleaning. Water for irrigation is mainly supplied from two on-site lakes. Meters were installed 1996 to monitor water use and detect leaks. High pressure/low volume nozzles are used to clean animal areas. Wherever possible, the Zoo horticulture staff employs the practice of Xeriscaping: using native and drought resistant plants that tolerate the local climate and do not require excessive watering.
In 2006, the Zoo installed a new interactive map-based software for irrigation monitoring. The new system allows for advanced water management features maximizing landscape conditions and water savings. This system utilizes an evapotranspiration management system that measures rainfall and other conditions that are entered from local state weather stations. The software determines the amount of irrigation to meet established plant needs. The irrigation control system is used in eight major exhibits; chimpanzee, gorilla, baboon, polar bear/seal, grizzly bear, black bear, red wolf, bison/elk.
- Our first year in operation using the irrigation monitoring system, has have seen a 56.4% reduction in water use. By having a centrally located controller system we have seen additional savings in fuel and man-hours by not having to travel to individual controllers.
- Upgrades to aquatic filtration systems have resulted in less frequent turnover of backwash and fewer tank drain-and-fills, while the irrigation system saved 1.5 million gallons of water in just one season.