Some zoo an­i­mals get potable wa­ter to drink

Den­ver stops us­ing re­cy­cled wa­ter for ele­phants, oth­ers

The Denver Post - - NEWS - By Joe Vac­carelli Joe Vac­carelli: 303-954-2396, jvac­carelli@den­ver­ or @joe_­vacc

An­i­mals in the Toy­ota Ele­phant Pas­sage ex­hibit at Den­ver Zoo no longer get re­cy­cled wa­ter to drink af­ter feed­back from the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture.

When the habi­tat — which in­cludes an­i­mals such as tapirs, leop­ards and rhi­nos in ad­di­tion to ele­phants — opened in 2012, re­cy­cled wa­ter was used for ir­ri­ga­tion, clean­ing and for drink­ing.

The habi­tat is the only area in the zoo that used re­cy­cled wa­ter for drink­ing. The re­cy­cled wa­ter pipe was in­stalled in an ef­fort by the zoo to be more sus­tain­able and en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly. The zoo made the switch to potable drink­ing wa­ter on Dec. 11, and the work cost about $20,000.

Zoo of­fi­cials said the ve­teri­nary staff deemed re­cy­cled wa­ter to be a safe source for drink­ing and still be­lieve that is the case. How­ever, they de­cided to re­view the is­sue af­ter news that re­cy­cled wa­ter could be to blame for ev­er­green tree de­clines in some of the city’s parks.

“We strongly be­lieve that the re­cy­cled wa­ter is safe for an­i­mals due to the facts that it met En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency Clean Wa­ter Act stan­dards for hu­man consumption in the 1980s and the re­sults from the con­tin­ued mon­i­tor­ing of health and necropsy records show no in­di­ca­tion of health con­cerns re­lat­ing to wa­ter consumption of the ex­hibit’s an­i­mals,” Den­ver Zoo spokes­woman Tif­fany Grunert said in an email.

But while re­view­ing the use of the re­cy­cled wa­ter in­ter­nally and reach­ing out to the USDA, the zoo de­cided to add potable wa­ter for drink­ing in or­der to meet USDA guide­lines. The USDA is the reg­u­lat­ing body for zoos.

Grunert noted, how­ever, that the USDA does not look at the vary­ing qual­ity of re­cy­cled wa­ter; it sim­ply rec­om­mends potable wa­ter.

“Even though we felt strongly that this wa­ter was safe and have not seen any is­sues to its use, it was much eas­ier to add potable wa­ter to the area than to try and change a fed­eral agency’s def­i­ni­tion,” Grunert added in her email.

The zoo will still use re­cy­cled wa­ter for bathing and clean­ing in the habi­tat.

Grou­cho, an Asian ele­phant, eats hay at the Den­ver Zoo in 2012. Den­ver Post file

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