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Shedd Aquarium Meets Water Conservation

Shedd Celebrates 50 Percent Reduction of Water Use on World Water Day

December 08, 2018

Shedd's Oceanarium sits on the lake next to the Chicago skyline.

Shedd Aquarium is celebrating World Water Day this year by announcing an early victory on a goal that aimed to reduce the aquarium’s new water intake from the city and lake by 50 percent. At the close of 2016, water conservation efforts came to fruition as annual water consumption decreased by 52 percent, one year earlier than planned. Such water conservation efforts contribute to Shedd’s overall commitment to preserve and protect the valuable supply of freshwater in the Great Lakes.

“Reducing our use of water was no small feat, and we’re excited to have met the goal we set for ourselves,” said Bob Wengel, vice president of facilities at Shedd Aquarium. “We hope to continue to decrease our intake of new city and lake water. Although we live in a region with an abundant source of water, it’s ever important to preserve and protect the natural resources we’ve been gifted.”

“Reducing our use of water was no small feat, and we’re excited to have met the goal we set for ourselves.”

said Bob Wengel, vice president of facilities at Shedd Aquarium

In 2009, Shedd Aquarium conducted an audit of water usage around the building. The audit determined that animal systems accounted for just 16 percent of total water consumption, while the building’s cooling system proved to be the largest water consumer. Based on findings, leadership crafted a Sustainability Strategic Plan – water being one of 11 focus areas – aimed at reducing the aquarium’s environmental footprint.

The ambitious conservation goal sought to drop water use by 50 percent by 2018 in comparison to the amount of water used in 2007, the baseline year. This meant reducing the intake of new water from 57.919 million gallons annually to 28.959 million gallons. At the end of the 2016 calendar year, the aquarium’s pull of new water totaled in at 28.666 million gallons – a 52 percent water reduction from the baseline year.

“One of the most obvious and challenging tasks on the journey toward a more sustainable aquarium is reducing your intake of new water,” said Wengel. “While many of our efforts involved large-scale planning, we also implemented simple measures anyone can mirror at home.”

One example is repairing leaks and losses. For Shedd, a systematic effort to identify and repair or replace leaks and losses resulted in an annual water reduction of 800 thousand gallons. According to the U.S. Geological Survey's Water Science School, a home faucet that drips once per minute can add up to a total water waste of 34 gallons a year. Another example is collecting rainwater. For Shedd, this involved using rainwater to replenish water that had evaporated in the process of using the building’s cooling towers, saving around 700 thousand gallons annually. At home, this could mean using rainwater to water plants or wash your car.

To celebrate World Water Day, Shedd Aquarium encourages all to conserve our valuable water sources. For more information on how you can participate in World Water Day, visit