Olds College Supporting Water Week
How do the Olds College Constructed Wetlands Support Canada Water Week?
Canada Water Week is a celebration of water from coast-to-coast-to-coast, held annually in the third week of March to coincide with World Water Day. Individuals, organizations and governments across the country are encouraged to get involved by organizing or participating in fun and educational events. Together, we can raise the profile and understanding of water.
The Gordon Foundation, WWF–Canada, the Canadian Freshwater Alliance and Living Lakes Network Canada have partnered to co-ordinate the organization of Canada Water Week in collaboration with individuals, governments and organizations across the country.
For more information, visit www.canadawaterweek.com.
Water affects our lives through its quality, its quantity and its presence. Water and jobs have the power to transform people’s lives. Water is central to human survival, the environment and the economy. (International Labor Organization – ILO)
The average Canadian consumes nearly 6,400 litres of water every day. Much of the water – over 90% - is embedded in the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the products we use every day.
- The Olds College Constructed Wetlands are managed by the Olds College Centre for Innovation which is the Applied Research arm of Olds College. The wetland landscape is managed by the Olds College Botanic Gardens.
- Water management is critical to the sustainability of horticulture and agriculture, land use practices, economic growth, water conservation, protecting water supplies, and reducing the incidence of flooding, drought and erosion, and creating essential wildlife habitats.
- Availability of high quality water is a requirement for sustainable environmental health. “Water and the land is like blood in the body. If you pollute or cut off water, the land will die. Water is fundamental to all life and we must work together to protect it.” Chief Charlie Football Gameti, NWT (Northern Voices, Northern Waters NWT Water Stewardship Strategy)
- The wetlands are a “living laboratory” for college students and the general public to demonstrate cutting edge practice in land and water management. College students and outside groups use the wetland ponds for hands on educational purposes.
- The Olds College Constructed Wetlands is a ‘real time’ model for both rural and urban water conservation and recycling. The Olds College Constructed Wetlands are being replicated in various forms throughout Alberta in both industrial and agricultural settings.
- The main purpose of the wetlands is to treat and polish run off water from the college campus and to provide research opportunities in the area of waste water management. This runoff water is circulated through the “strings” of wetland ponds that have been planted with different types of vegetation that “polish” the water by removing contaminants that may occur in the water.
- The wetlands also serve as a laboratory to study different forms of aquatic life and to experience first-hand the natural cycle of pond life from early awakening and growth at the beginning of the natural function of wetlands in cold climates, through the maturation of the vegetation, through the oxygen reduction cycle, and back to the regeneration of oxygen.
- The basic principles of the Olds College Constructed Wetlands can be adapted to different situations in various climates for the purpose of water recycling, water polishing, and water conservation.
To date, and in keeping with the Alberta Government Environmental Quality Guidelines for Alberta Surface Waters (July 14, 2014) and the Alberta Wetland Policy (September 2013), Canada Water Week and World Water Day, the Olds College Centre for Innovation (OCCI) has engaged in wetland projects such as:
- Capturing Old College Campus stormwater runoff and snowmelt to circulate and ‘polish’ (clean) the water through strings of ponds planted with specific plants to clean contaminants from the water. This water is then recycled through the wetland irrigation system and provides the water needed to irrigate the wetland gardens as well as the Prairie Turfgrass research plots, making this whole area self-sustainable by using natural surface water.
- Introducing Floating Island technology to demonstrate how recycled materials in ponds and lakes can protect the integrity of the ponds and lakes by protecting the banks from erosion, providing a sanctuary for fish, providing a nesting area and food for waterfowl and birds, protecting various forms of aquatic life so that these can be studied and enjoyed by the human population, conserving water and providing a beautiful, pleasant environment in subdivisions that can be enjoyed by all residents.
- Introducing hydrology technology to monitor the quality of water in wetlands
- Initiating a 2015-2017 Demonstration Wild Rice Project to demonstrate the feasibility of growing native wild rice in wetlands. Wild rice provides protein rich food for humans, birds, and waterfowl, therefore, playing a significant role in sustaining life.
- Conducting numerous tours throughout the season (May to October) for students and people from all walks of life who come to learn about and enjoy the peaceful wetlands.
- Making available the wetlands to students of all ages who use the wetlands as an outdoor laboratory for learning about nature and the environment.
- Providing a wetland example to developers who have become very aware of the Water for Life strategy and are incorporating variations of the Olds College Constructed Wetlands into the design of their subdivision developments.