News & Politics

The Animals at the National Zoo Will Be Fine During the DC Water Emergency

A 28,000-gallon reserve tank is being used to guarantee the safety of the animals.

The man, the myth, the legend – Spike. Photograph courtesy of the National Zoo.

As word spread of DC Water’s boil water advisory on Friday morning, residents in Northwest and Northeast DC were warned not to drink or use tap water without boiling it. Smithsonian’s National Zoo was aware of the issue and put out a notice before the panic spread, assuring guests that its drinking fountains and water misters would be shut off. The zoo also offers bottled water for its guests. Naturally, others were curious about the wellbeing of the animals.

Pamela Baker-Masson, a spokeswoman for the National Zoo, said the zoo is putting to use a 28,000-gallon tank, typically reserved for a few animals in exhibits like the Reptile Discovery Center. The zoo will also perform chloroform tests on the pools used by larger animals like elephants—although, those water sources were already considered clean since they were filled prior to the water emergency.

“We want visitors to know that we take care and think of every animal from the tiny frog to the 13,000-pound elephant,” Baker-Masson says.

So rest assured: The mammals and amphibians will be safe, especially since the zoo constantly filters its tanks using reverse osmosis water purification technology. DC Water also has an updated map so people can see if their area is affected.

Assistant Editor

Elliot joined Washingtonian in January 2018. An alum of Villanova University, he grew up in the Philadelphia area before earning a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University. His work has also appeared in the Washington Post,, and, among others. He lives in Bloomingdale.