How Does an Aquarium Cut Water Use by 50 Percent in 5 Years? – Chicago Tonight | WTTW

Maurice Smith tracks Shedd Aquarium's energy usage from a control room in the building's basement. (Photos by Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)Maurice Smith tracks Shedd Aquarium's vitality utilization from a management room in the constructing's basement. (Pictures by Alex Ruppenthal / Chicago Tonight)

When Maurice Smith began working in Shedd Aquarium’s amenities division 11 years in the past, no person used the phrase “sustainability.”

Dozens of occasions every day, Smith or one in every of his colleagues needed to march over to a set of pumps feeding water into the aquarium’s varied animal habitats and crank a lever to regulate the water movement based mostly on situations in every exhibit.

“Once I began, every little thing was guide,” Smith mentioned.

At this time, Smith sits in entrance of 5 pc screens and two 50-inch displays in the aquarium’s operations heart, the place a graph tracks the constructing’s vitality use in actual time. With a couple of clicks of the mouse, Smith slows the movement of water headed for the ocean otter exhibit – a transfer he hopes will assist the aquarium meet its every day vitality effectivity objectives.

“Proper now, our goal is 2,158 [kilowatt-hours],” mentioned Smith, one in every of Shedd’s life assist operators, noting the present utilization ranges. “I’m at like 2,248 [kilowatt-hours], so I’m beginning to pull totally different stuff again.”

Since embarking on a brand new sustainability initiative 5 years in the past, Shedd has lower water use by greater than half, from 60 million gallons per yr in 2012 to 28 million gallons per yr now. (The 32-million gallon distinction is about what it could take to fill 50 Olympic-sized swimming swimming pools.)

The transformation is noteworthy provided that the aquarium is, properly, an aquarium.

A table shows water flow levels for Shedd Aquarium's various animal habitats. A desk reveals water movement ranges for Shedd Aquarium's varied animal habitats.

To realize the steep cuts, Shedd’s amenities workers, in coordination with the aquarium’s animal well being workforce, examined water ranges in some reveals and located that, in some instances, ranges had been increased than optimum. This allowed Shedd to lower the quantity of water in a number of reveals with out jeopardizing the well being of animals.

The aquarium additionally made numerous extra primary adjustments to chop water utilization, corresponding to putting in low-movement bogs and sinks, shoring up leaks and changing a 42-year-previous cooling tower. The brand new cooling unit is rather more environment friendly at regulating the temperature of water used all through the constructing.

“It was primarily changing a constructing constructed in 1929 to a contemporary constructing however protecting the construction and the structure of the prevailing constructing,” mentioned Bob Wengel, Shedd’s vice chairman of amenities, after an occasion Thursday in which Shedd obtained an award from ComEd for taking part in the corporate’s vitality effectivity program.

By investing about $250,000 on water-associated upgrades over the previous 5 years, Shedd officers say it has saved a whole lot of hundreds of which might be as an alternative getting used to fund different packages, corresponding to its animal rescue and response missions and discipline analysis.

A new cooling tower has helped Shedd Aquarium cut water use by 50 percent over the past five years. A brand new cooling tower has helped Shedd Aquarium lower water use by 50 p.c over the previous 5 years.

Within the Oceanarium, the location of Shedd’s aquatic presentation that includes dolphins, whales, sea lions and sea otters, 2.5 million gallons of water are actually recycled annually from the aquarium’s shark and stingray exhibit. The recycled water, which used to get dumped down a drain, accommodates microorganisms that make it more healthy for animals in the Oceanarium than the water used beforehand in the exhibit. 

“Each kilowatt hour we save, each gallon of water we save is simply as vital as each discipline conservation venture that we now have happening right here at Shedd,” Wengel mentioned. “As a result of conservation begins proper right here.”

The aquarium’s sustainability initiative additionally consists of 900-plus photo voltaic panels fastened to the constructing’s roof and a one-megawatt, $2 million lithium-ion battery that can go stay subsequent yr. The brand new vitality sources are a part of Shedd’s aim of slicing general vitality use in half by 2020.

Contact Alex Ruppenthal: @arupp | (773) 509-5623

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How Does an Aquarium Cut Water Use by 50 Percent in 5 Years? - Chicago Tonight | WTTW