Chicago's Shedd Aquarium Reduces Water Intake

March 24, 2017
Aquarium meets 50% reduction goal one year early

Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium announced an early victory on its goal to reduce the aquarium’s new water intake from the city and Lake Michigan by 50%. At the close of 2016, water conservation efforts came to fruition as annual water consumption decreased by 52%, one year earlier than planned. Such water conservation efforts contribute to Shedd’s overall commitment to preserve and protect the valuable supply of freshwater in the Great Lakes.

“Reducing our use of water was no small feat, and we’re excited to have met the goal we set for ourselves,” said Bob Wengel, vice president of facilities at Shedd Aquarium. “We hope to continue to decrease our intake of new city and lake water. Although we live in a region with an abundant source of water, it’s ever important to preserve and protect the natural resources we’ve been gifted.”

In 2009, Shedd Aquarium conducted an audit of water usage around the building. The audit determined that animal systems accounted for only 16% of total water consumption, while the building’s cooling system proved to be the largest water consumer. Based on findings, leadership crafted a Sustainability Strategic Plan— water being one of 11 focus areas—aimed at reducing the aquarium’s environmental footprint.

The ambitious conservation goal sought to drop water use by 50% by 2018 in comparison to the amount of water used in 2007, the baseline year. This meant reducing the intake of new water from 57.919 million gal annually to 28.959 million gal. At the end of the 2016 calendar year, the aquarium’s pull of new water totaled in at 28.666 million gal—a 52% water reduction from the baseline year.

“One of the most obvious and challenging tasks on the journey toward a more sustainable aquarium is reducing your intake of new water,” said Wengel. “While many of our efforts involved large-scale planning, we also implemented simple measures anyone can mirror at home.”

One example is repairing leaks and losses. For Shedd, a systematic effort to identify and repair or replace leaks and losses resulted in an annual water reduction of 800 thousand gal. According to the U.S. Geological Survey's Water Science School, a home faucet that drips once per minute can add up to a total water waste of 34 gal per year. Another example is collecting rainwater. For Shedd, this involved using rainwater to replenish water that had evaporated in the process of using the building’s cooling towers, saving approximately 700,000 gal annually. At home, this could mean using rainwater to water plants or wash your car.

For more information about Shedd’s commitment to water conservation and sustainability, visit the Shedd Aquarium blog.

Source: Shedd Aquarium

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