ASHEBORO—The North Carolina Zoo’s Horticulture Division this week was named first-place winner for Group Projects in the 2008 Sustainability Awards presented by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The Zoo Horticulture Staff was recognized for their work on water saving projects which have resulted in the zoo saving more than 3.3 million gallons of water and reducing costs by $27,852 over the past year.

The DENR Sustainability Awards are presented annually to groups or individuals “who are committed to being an exemplary role model and leader in implementing the state’s initiatives for responsible environmental stewardship,” according to the department’s announcement of the winners. A total of 24 individuals or projects were nominated for the 2008 awards.  The zoo is an agency of DENR.

Among the projects implemented by the Horticulture staff to reduce water consumption is a new $69,000 automated irrigation control system which measures rainfall, wind and other conditions to determine the amount of irrigation needed. The system allows for irrigation to be controlled remotely and has reduced water use in some animal exhibits by more than 56 percent as well as saving labor and fuel costs. In addition, a drip irrigation system utilized in the park’s “kidZone” and Alligator exhibits has cut water use by 98 and 83 percent respectively.  

“We are delighted that the zoo’s ongoing efforts in environmental stewardship are being recognized by the state in this way,” said Mary Joan Pugh, zoo chief of staff. “The park has for many years been implementing programs to reduce our use of water, energy and other natural resources and the Horticulture Division has been a leader in those projects.”

The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, William G. Ross Jr., Secretary; Michael F. Easley, Governor.