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Saving water

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 our three zoos requires a substantial amount of water usage. Zoos Victoria is committed to reducing our water consumption, while maintaining the necessary diverse environments for our animals. 

Water Treatment Plant at Melbourne Zoo

Melbourne Zoo collects 90% of water from the zoo grounds through an onsite Water Treatment Plant, which has capacity to store 780 kilolitres of untreated water and 620 kilolitres of treated water. 

The water comes from rainwater run-off, animal wash-downs, over flowing of lakes and emptying of the majority of ponds within animal exhibits to storm water.

The treatment process

With the assistance of gravity, water travels through a network of storm water pipes, ending up at a sedimentation pit system where suspended solids settle out. Once water is diverted to the treatment plant onsite, it is pumped through a strainer to remove finer particles. From here it goes through a Continuous Micro Filtration Unit, a Reverse Osmosis filter, UV sterilisation and dosed with sodium hypochlorite to ensure continuous clean water supply; like tap water. The end result is Class A classified water; which is cleaner than tap water!

This water is then transported through the recycled water pipes throughout the Zoo and is used around the grounds for keeping our plants watered, washing down animal barns, backwashing filters, filling up the lakes and animal ponds 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
  • Installation of closed loop filtration systems, opposed to dump and fill methods.
  • Smarter irrigation management, with the investment of a central irrigation control system.

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 water 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 by the 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

Chlorine in our pools

Elephants in captivity require chlorine in the pools that they bathe and play in so the water is safe without the risk of bacteria or algae. Using chlorine helps preserve water through disinfecting and reduces the need to frequently drain and refill our pools allowing Zoos Victoria to save water.

IXOM has been supplying the Zoo with chlorine over the years, and as an official supporter of the Zoo, provide us with a free supply of chlorine per annum and a cash contribution that goes towards our conservation campaigns. Thank you IXOM.