Visiting the uOttawa Aquariums for World Water Day

A frog in a tank at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

Did you know that uOttawa recycles water? As in use it, get it dirty, and use it again? I'll bet you didn’t. Now, of course, you can’t just use it immediately after dirtying it, but with the right filtration system, the water can be used over and over.

A filter and a tank at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

That’s what they are doing in the uOttawa Aquatic Care facilities on campus. So in honour of World Water Day, with this year's theme being waste water, we spoke to Bill Fletcher from the Aquatic Care facility on how they are reducing water waste right here on campus.

The Aquatic Care facility focuses on the research related to fish and amphibians, so you can imagine they use a lot of water.
(I asked why the frogs were all like this. I learned that this is how they relax, a little creepy in my opinion but you know, I am not a frog).

Some frogs surface for air while others relax on the bottom of a tank at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

The facilities currently use 30 Million litres of water a year! Wow.
But 85% of that water is getting reused right in the facility. How you might ask? One word: Bio-filters.

A filtration system removes nitrogen at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

They have these huge bio-filters in all the rooms that remove the ammonia and re-oxygenate the water. The fish breathe underwater so they 'breath' up all the oxygen (never even thought about this myself) and the ammonia comes from fish waste (not pee, cause fish don’t pee!).

They obviously can’t have too much ammonia in the water so the bio-filters remove it using a naturally occurring bacteria that is mixed in with the plastic filter pellets (which never need to be replaced, so yay).

Filtration pellets at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

So the bio-filters recycle 85% of the 30 Million litres they use (that's about 12 Olympic sized swimming pools), imagine how much water they would need if they didn’t recycle it!
Of the water that they can't recycle, 10 Million litres goes to the Power Plant and is used to help cool it down (that’s what the mist coming out the top is, recycled water!) Admittedly, there is a small amount that goes into the sewer but over 85% is still a pretty awesome number.

A round tank  at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

These circular tanks mimic water currents which help minimize the stress levels of the fish by mimicking the natural environment. This system is also designed to use the water current to push sediment in the water to the bottom of the tank where they have a collection area that removes it. In this fashion, fish don't have to come in contact with people cleaning the tanks constantly.

Gold fish swimming in a tank at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

Not that it has much to do with water waste but you would be surprised how hard the staff in Aquatic Care work to make sure the fish are not stressed, it is actually very touching. I never thought about how stressed fish could get. The tanks and cleaning systems are all designed to reduce stress, the lighting in each room is designed for what fish would have in their natural environment, and they even adjust the room temperature to make sure the fish are comfortable. And let me tell you, the room with tropical fish... much too hot for me.

Tropical fish at the uOttawa Aquatic Care facility

So this World Water Day, maybe we should take a moment to thankful of how important water is for people and animals alike. Water is essential for the campus to work properly and it has more uses than you ever thought.

~ clarissa - communications intern