COLORADO SPRINGS — Running a zoo requires a lot of water, in fact millions of gallons every year. That’s why the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is cutting back on their water consumption and giving it back to local waterways.
The zoo has already cut its water use in half over the past five years. They use 16 million gallons every year, compared to the previous 30 million. The zoo is partnering with Trout Unlimted Winter Water Offset becoming the first water neutral zoo in the world.
“Our water use through irrigation and municipal use really does affect how much water ends up in the river for wildlife,” said Bob Chastain, Cheyenne Mountain Zoo President & CEO.
The zoo is helping to boost water flow in local rivers through a new partnership with the non-profit organization, Trout Unlimited. The organization has a program in the Rio Grande basin that arranges for releases of water from storage reservoirs to augment river flows for the benefit of trout populations and the riverine environment. The Zoo donated $15,000 of conservation funds to Trout Unlimited to support these releases.
“By working with Trout Unlimited to release that water in the wintertime, when the water is at it’s lowest, we put oxygen in the water and we give wildlife, like fish and insects, a chance to do well rather than end up in these pockets of shallow water,” said Chastain.
Chastain says there’s been a decline in water levels over the past few years and every small conservation step makes a big difference. The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo is donating the same amount of water they use annually, 16 million gallons, to be released into local rivers.
“I was rafting the Arkansas River late last summer and the difference in just a month and a half, since I had last rafted it, was dramatic,” said Chastain. “That got me thinking that if there was some way to contribute to water levels when they’re low during the winter months, we could make an impact.”
Roughly ninety percent of Colorado’s water supply is used by farmers and ranchers, according to Trout Unlimited, and this agricultural water use drives rural economies. Rivers also support many important functions in our state: feeding diverse ecosystems of plants and animals; generating tourism and making an economic impact on local business through its fishing, hunting, camping and whitewater sports; and transporting water from reservoirs to those who need it.
Chastain said if you’re looking for something you can do to help give back to waterways, turn off the sink when brushing your teeth. He said just one person doing that can save a gallon of water every day and make a big difference.