Salt Lake City’s Water Week kicks off with Hogle Zoo scavenger hunt
By ben Fulton
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published May 06 2012 05:32PM
The blue-lettered placards placed at key locations throughout Hogle Zoo for Salt Lake City’s Water Week of conservation education range from the shocking to the outright savage.
Find at least four of these six placards, as did the Beal children of Idaho Falls, Idaho, during Water Week’s kickoff Sunday morning, and you’ll score temporary tattoos for the kids. More than that, you’ll glean conversation-worthy knowledge about the connections between wildlife and water.
The scavenger hunt designed for families is just one of a deluge of activities scheduled through Saturday, when Water Week offers everything from gardening tips and sales to lectures, children’s story time and a fly-fishing demonstration.
Not even film buffs have been left out of the action: Documentaries are available about the Great Salt Lake shoreline and one U.S. serviceman’s personal battle against water contamination at a North Carolina Marine base.
Clint Beal, a 25-year-old pipe worker who takes the family on regular trips to Salt Lake City for daughter Brina’s juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, said he jumped at the chance to learn more through Sunday’s scavenger hunt. The chance for other families to do the same lasts through Saturday.
"Heck, yeah," Beal said. "It’s something to keep us involved, instead of just walking around looking."
The Beal family read one placard after watching 2-year-old elephant Zuri roll in mud and scratch her hind ankle, learning that elephants sometimes walk 60 miles — about the distance between Salt Lake City to Provo — for a drink.
Another, read while senior camel Gobi raised his arthritic legs, said that contrary to popular thought, camels don’t store water in their humps, which store fat. Water is stored in the walls of a camel’s stomach, where it’s released gradually before the next 50-gallon fill-up.
The zoo’s stunning Amur tigers, a trio of brothers, become even more fearful in their dazzling symmetry after reading the Water Week placard nearby.
"Tigers don’t just use water for drinking," it reads. "They often hide by water holes waiting for unsuspecting prey to stop by for a drink. After dinner, a tiger might take a dip in the water hole to cool off and play. Who doesn’t like a trip to the pool or a hot day?"
For Beal, the most shocking placard stood by the zoo’s famous water fountain enclosed in the gaping mouth of a plastic lion.
"How can you help reduce the demand on water supplies?" it asks. "Tap it! Bottled water requires a lot of energy and water for bottling and transport. Drinking tap water leaves more to go around."
"I never knew that bottled water actually wasted water," Beal said. "I always thought it was the opposite. I’ll pass that on at work, the in-laws and everyone I know."
That, of course is the point, for public education programs in the spirit of Water Week. The legislative brainchild of then-House Minority Leader Ralph Becker in 2007, before he became Salt Lake City mayor, his bill was signed into law and designated for the first full week of May as State Water Week by then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.
Utah boasts two national distinctions when it comes to water use, according to the website of the Utah Rivers Council, a nonprofit organization advocating the conservation and stewardship of Utah rivers. Living in the second most arid state after Nevada, Utah residents use more water per capita than any other state. On top of that, our water rates are the second lowest in the nation. The low cost of water, up to 70 percent used outside the home, according to the council, makes conservation difficult.
Liz Larsen, conservation coordinator for Hogle Zoo, said the scavenger hunt was a natural fit for the zoo’s third year of participation in Water Week.
"Water in our state is a concern to us. Something we see every day in the care of our animals is their relationship with water," she said.
The zoo will become even more water-oriented with the June 1 opening of its "Rocky Shores" exhibit of fresh- and salt-water animals, including two river otters, three harbor seals and three sea lions. Larsen said water for those exhibits will be recycled and filtered in a closed loop system so that the habitat pools won’t require draining and refilling.
"That saves us water — big time," Larsen said.