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New penguin pool goes green

Posted by: Rebecca Whitham, Communications

Woodland Park Zoo hit a major milestone this week in the construction of our new Humboldt penguin exhibit, opening in May:

We've filled the penguin pool for the first and last time!

Why is that important? Well, to help "green" the exhibit, instead of traditional fill and dump practices, we will fill the penguin pool only once. Then, we will use the earth’s natural systems to ensure a pristine water environment for these endangered birds while preventing stormwater runoff from entering our lakes, thus contributing to the health of Puget Sound.

With the green technologies, the exhibit will save approximately 3,000,000 gallons of water and 75,000,000 BTUs of energy each year! That’s the equivalent of saving 24 million pints of drinking water, and heating five, new two-bedroom townhouses each year.

How are we saving so much water and energy?

The exhibit will filter stormwater on site in two ways. First, it will collect rainwater from the roof and use it to replace pool water lost naturally through evaporation. All rainwater that falls onto the paths will filter back into the ground to recharge the earth. Second, “dirty” but nutrient-rich water from the penguin pool will trickle through a “constructed wetland” modeled on a natural filtration ecosystem.
Here, plant roots and microbes will naturally absorb these nutrients, returning purified water to the penguin pool. No water will enter the sewer system.

The earth's own geothermal capacity will heat and cool the penguin pool water. Humboldt penguins’ ideal water temperature is 50-60° F, and the earth’s temperature 100 feet below the exhibit is 55° F. Deep tubes will use the earth’s thermal reserves to temper the penguin pool water appropriately, cooling it in summer and heating it in winter.

These innovations are made possible in part by grants from Seattle Public Utilities and Seattle City Light.

Don't forget, the penguin exhibit opens to the public May 2, 2009!

Photos by Ryan Hawk.