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Water treatment plant at Melbourne Zoo

Climate change affects the severity and volume of rainfall. 

In Victoria, water will continue to be a scarce resource. The need for taking water from natural flows, such as rivers and aquifers, is likely to increase. Extracting water from the natural environment will have massive impacts on Victorian ecosystems.

Managing naturalistic environments around Zoos Victoria requires a substantial amount of water usage. We are committed to reducing our water consumption, while maintaining the necessary diverse environments for our animals. 

We have implemented a range of programs to allow us to continue to do this in a changing climate.

Water treatment plant at Melbourne Zoo

Melbourne Zoo has its own water treatment plant. 

The plant produces Class A classified water, which is cleaner than tap water.

Water collection covers 85% of the zoo grounds. Rainwater run-off and animal wash-downs to storm water are collected into the water treatment plant, through 4.5 kilometres of reticulation pipes. The plant has the capacity to store 780 kilolitres of untreated water and 620 kilolitres of treated water.

The treatment process

Once water is diverted to the treatment plant on-site, it is pumped through a strainer to remove particles. Then it goes through a Continuous Micro Filtration Unit, reverse osmosis, UV sterilisation and dose sodium hypochlorite. The end result is Class A classified water.

This water is then transported back through the recycled water pipes through the Zoo, to be used on the grounds for a variety of things. These include keeping our plants watered, washing down animal barns, filling up the lakes and even flushing toilets.

Since we started operating this treatment facility, our potable water demand has decreased. 

Reducing water use

Before the mid 1990s, Melbourne Zoo used more than 1,000 kilolitres of potable water per day, averaging 570,000 kilolitres per year. We now use 176,174 kilolitres of potable water per year.

Excellence in saving water

Melbourne Zoo has reduced its water consumption by:

  • Continued efficient water use
  • Compliance with water restrictions
  • Commissioning of the recycled water plant

As a result of these achievements, Melbourne Zoo won an Award for Excellence for the 2008 Savewater Awards.

Water-wise improvements

We are continually improving facilities to ensure Zoos Victoria continues to be a water-wise organisation.

Recycled water from Western Treatment Plant

At Werribee Open Range Zoo, we use recycled from the Western Treatment Plant. This water is used exclusively for irrigation, animal exhibit washing, public toilets, and to fill and top up water bodies (such as those at the hippo and core river).

Leak detection at Melbourne Zoo

Melbourne Zoo is 150 years old, with very old water pipes. 

Audits have indicated that a high proportion of water could be leaking into the environment. To address this possibility, we have started a program of leak detection. 

Some major leaks have been already been uncovered. Further audits are being periodically conducted to ensure leaks are detected and fixed quickly.

Reducing water use in public toilets

We have installed waterless urinals in all male toilets. This measure has the potential to save the equivalent of one Olympic size swimming pool. 

Recycled water or harvested rainwater is used for flushing toilets.

Practicing sustainable horticulture

Water Smart Garden

Our landscapers across all three Zoos have been certified as environmentally friendly, having completed the Environmentally Certified Landscape Industry Professionals certification.

To meet certification standards, landscape professionals must:

  • Undergo training in sustainable design, construction and maintenance practices
  • Be subject to random independent audits of landscapes under construction, as well as those they have completed
  • Ensure they keep up-to-date with the latest in sustainable practices, by attending industry seminars and workshops. 

The certification was established by the not-for-profit organisation Sustainable Gardening Australia.

At Werribee Open Range Zoo, our Water Smart Garden display informs and assists visitors to choose sustainable garden plants.

Sustainable irrigation

At Melbourne Zoo, we have a central irrigation control system to monitor and control irrigation requirements on the zoo grounds. The system’s water is supplied bythe Zoo’s water treatment plant.

Harvesting rainwater

We harvest rainwater at our each of our three properties. At Healesville Sanctuary’s Australian Wildlife Health Centre, a three-stage filter cleans the rainwater it uses. As a result, the centre does not require additional mains water.

At Werribee Open Range Zoo, the bus shelter doubles as an effective water collection agent. 

Water harvesting