Water Water Everywhere! The Importance of Water Quality at the Zoo
by Jill Odachowski
In the year 2000, the Zoo initiated a new water theme for the new Master Plan. With the Zoo being centrally located between two of the Great Lakes, it was important to educate our visitors on the importance of these water systems.
As the Zoo started building through the Master Plan, we had to take several steps to ensure these new water exhibits had the best equipment to simulate the water conditions necessary for the animal species at our facility.
My job as the Life Support Operator is to ensure that the water quality and the life support equipment are working and running in their appropriate ranges. AZA and USDA are two organizations that help provide zoos and aquariums with determining the correct ranges in these water parameters. For instance, pH and temperature are two critical parameters that we monitor for most water exhibits daily. Some animal species are more sensitive to a change in pH and temperature than others. Fish and Amphibian species can become sick if these parameters increase or decrease too much. Whereas our polar bears would not even realize the difference.
Here at the Zoo we use special equipment to measure pH and temperature. There are also many other test that we perform on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. There are even some tests we run three to four times a day. These tests are run to make sure the water is clean and safe for our animals. Some of our animals are in their pools all of the time, so we need to make sure the water is healthy. At times, you may see cloudy water here at the zoo. The water in fact is not dirty; it’s natural and safe for our animals. Oceans, streams, and lakes are not intended to be swimming pool clear. These bodies of water have algae and nutrient bio loads in them too. It’s important to remember that when we humans go swimming in our pools and our eyes burn from chlorine after an hour, we don’t want that to occur to our animals that are living in our pools much longer than just an hour.
Similar to filtration systems you see in someone’s backyard pool, The Zoo’s Life Support Systems are filtration systems are on a much bigger scale. We have really small life support systems for some of our amphibians, small mammals and fish, and then we have very large life support systems for our NOCO Sea Lion Cove Exhibit, M & T Bank Rainforest Falls, and Garman Family Arctic Edge. These larger systems have rooms and or buildings dedicated to housing the equipment and keeping it long-lasting through the years. There are many different types of filters here at the Zoo that do many different jobs. The most important job of our Life Support Systems is to ensure our animals have the most natural environment here at our Zoo!