Environment Research


Land and Water Environment Research

With our constructed wetlands facility, Olds College is the place to go for wetland management solutions, applied research, and education. Our facility serves as a model to demonstrate the way wetlands can help reduce negative impacts on our environment and the increasing demand for clean water. We are producing high-quality recycled water through the removal of sediments, contaminants and undesirable nutrients with the use of plants for phytoremediation and new cold climate technologies, while researching wetlands in cold, high latitude climates. Together the constructed wetlands and the Botanical Garden provide an outdoor laboratory for students, an industry training site, and a nucleus for community programs – all in one. Extensive wetland applied research is also carried on in the Olds College greenhouses and off-campus sites with various industry partners.

Our Research Goals

  • To find ways to negate water shortages, a problem that threatens the future of not just Canada, but the world at large.

  • To find natural and efficient methods of irrigation by spearheading research that has never been done before.

  • To create ways to promote and enable effective environmental stewardship through its research. 

Land and Water Environment Research

  • Excess Nutrient Removal
    Finding ways to effectively remove excess nutrients and undesirable chemicals from water was step one into opening a multitude of avenues to apply wetlands research, and the various wetland plants was the solution. 

  • Feedlot Runoff
    Applying wetlands research to feedlot runoff water can mean the difference between wasting and reusing water, which can lead to an effective resource producers can use on their farm for watering crops, and other tasks that require irrigated water. 

  • Wastewater use on Golf Courses
    Similar to the feedlot runoff research, Olds College is conducting research in helping golf courses convert the waste water they produce to usable, irrigated water that can be repurposed directly on site. 

  • Waste management
    Environment research is being done to find efficient and effective methods of managing waste in water systems.

  • Water Testing
    Using controlled samples on the Olds College Campus to compare with the samples that it collects from its natural wetlands in Balzac, environment research continues to quantify the effectiveness of natural irrigation methods.

  • Floating Islands
    Using natural wetlands plants, Olds college is developing and testing floating islands to determine their effectiveness in irrigating wetland runoff water.

Environment Research Projects

Current Project:

Phyto-Remediation of Water from Livestock Feeding Operations, Farmlands, and Residential Areas Using Native Wetland Plants and Associated New Technology (2020-2021)

  • Please watch this site for project results once the project is completed and analyzed in 2021.


Ability of Wild Rice (Zizania aquatica) to Grow in Central Alberta (2015)  Demonstration Project (Ongoing)

Objective: Demand for wild rice in Canada is strong. Most wild rice in Canada is prevalent in Saskatchewan, Manitoba,  Alberta (Athabasca area), but also grows across Canada to the Maritimes. Will wild rice grow in Mountain View County?

Discussion and Conclusion:

  • Wild rice was broadcast in OC WL Pond 10 in the Fall of 2015 and remained in the water over the winter.
  • Germination and wild rice growth did occur in the Spring of 2016 and has continued every year since with no management.  

Acknowledgements Funding for the project was provided by Lakeland Wild Rice Ltd., Athabasca,  AB and High Plains Industrial Park,  and Olds College.


Phyto-Remediation of Water Contaminated with Selenium Using Native Plants (2017)

Objective 1: Determine the effectiveness of Phyto-Remediation in sequestering Selenium and Nutrients

Objective 2: Determine which plants function best at taking up metals and nutrients out of water

Objective 3: Determine the rate of uptake of metals and nutrients and the associated depletion rates of metals and nutrients for each plant species

Discussion and Conclusion:

  • Wetland plants are able to remove selenium effectively
  • Scirpus validus, Typha latifolia, Carex bebbii, Carex atheroides, and Juncus tenus have high    potential
  • Scirpus pungens reacted positively to selenium while Catherx atheroides and Typha latifolia were suppressed

Acknowledgements: Funding was provided by Grande Cache Coal, Tannas Conservation Services, Highfield Investment Group Inc., and Olds College.


Use of Native Wetland Plants on Floating Island Systems for the Phyto-Remediation of Water with Excess Nutrients  (2018-2019)

Project Objectives:  This project was focused on understanding how we can use native plants as a tool in cleaning water from the impacts of nutrient loading found in agricultural and urban settings within Western Canada. Our objective is to determine: 

  1. The effectiveness of each species in removing specific contaminants or potential contaminants in water
  2. Determine the water use efficiency of each plant species
  3. Determine the viability of each species to be used in floating island systems to remove contaminants

Discussion and Conclusion:  

  • The project technical report will be published in 2021 and after publication will be available at this site.
  • Acknowledgements:  Funding for this project was provided by Highfield Investment Group Inc.,                     
  • High Plains Industrial Park, Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Tannas Conservation Services, GP Restorations Ltd., and Olds College.

Olds College Centre for Innovation Webinar: Phyto-Remediation of Water With Excess Nutrients

Streamed June 24, 2020

Our Partners

Alberta Real Estate FoundationGP Restorations SolutionsHighfield Investment GroupTannas Conservation Services