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Environmental Stewardship

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 cost-effective and efficient methods for water management by spearheading novelty in research.


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

Environmental Stewardship Research Interests

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. 

Golf Course Water Management

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. 

Industrial and Municipal Wastewater Treatment

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

Water Quality Monitoring

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

Remediation of Contaminated Water from a Livestock Farm Using Floating Island Technology and Native Wetland Plants (Phase 2)


Similar native wetland plant species were used to treat feedlot runoff water in a greenhouse study. The contaminated water was expected to contain excessive nutrients, heavy metals and other contaminants. Performance of native plant species was mixed with some plant species removing up to 84% of phosphorus and 45% of potassium. Concentrations of nitrogen and heavy metals in the stored feedlot runoff water were undetectable.

Funders/Partners: Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Highfield Investment Group Inc., High Plains Industrial Park, Tannas Conservation Services, GP Restorations Ltd.

Phase 2 Report

Use of Native Wetland Plants on Floating Island Systems for the Phyto-Remediation of Water with Excess Nutrients (Phase 1)


This project examined the effectiveness of select native wetland species in removing excessive, synthetic plant nutrients — namely nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium — from contaminated potable water in a greenhouse study. All select plant species performed well by removing and retaining 6.4% to 84.9% of the excessive nutrients or contaminants from the water. 

Funders/Partners: Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Highfield Investment Group Inc., High Plains Industrial Park, Tannas Conservation Services, GP Restorations Ltd.

Phase 1 Report

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

2015 - Ongoing

Ability of Wild Rice

Demand for wild rice in Canada is strong. Most wild rice in Canada is prevalent in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta (Athabasca area), but also grows across Canada to the Maritimes. We wanted to determine if wild rice would grow in Mountain View County.

Discussion and Conclusion:

Wild rice was broadcast in Olds College Wetland 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.  

Funders/Partners: Lakeland Wild Rice Ltd., Athabasca, AB, High Plains Industrial Park

Phyto-Remediation of Water Contaminated with Selenium Using Native Plants



  • Determine the effectiveness of Phyto-Remediation in sequestering Selenium and Nutrients.

  • Determine which plants function best at taking up metals and nutrients out of water.

  • 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.

Funders/Partners: Grande Cache Coal, Tannas Conservation Services, Highfield Investment Group Inc.