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Biosolids demonstration projects

As part of the City's biosolids management program, we are committed to pursuing research into the best ways to manage biosolids and increase program resiliency.

In 2013, in consultation with Alberta Environment and Parks, the City of Calgary initiated two operational-scale projects. These projects, based on using dewatered biosolids, aim to improve the quality of soils considered “marginal” for agriculture and to provide a nutrient source for a willow tree farm.


Project update - August 2020

The Government of Canada announced an investment of approximately $2 million from the Low Carbon Economy Fund to support the willow tree project. This funding allows The City to plant 300 new hectares of trees over 3 years. The plantation will be fertilized with municipal biosolids that provide an alternative to traditional chemical-based fertilizers. These willows will help create a carbon storage sink that leads to fewer greenhouse gas emissions and results in improved use productivity of marginal land.

For more details: News release, August 25, 2020 - Calgary, AB


Willow Tree Farm

This landmark project will evaluate if willow biomass production is a logistically feasible and environmentally sound biosolids management option for Southern Alberta.

Once established, the willow farm will be one of the largest willow plantations in North America, with approximately five willow trees planted for every Calgarian.

Willow trees create a large amount of woody growth quickly and are typically harvested every three years. Chipped willow has many uses such as feedstock for composting, livestock bedding, mulch and erosion control, and as biomass for fuel.

Assessment and monitoring data collected as part of this project will be used by the Government of Alberta to shape future regulatory updates. This is an exciting opportunity to both expand the use of biosolids as a valuable resource and introduce large-scale willow biomass plantations in Southern Alberta.

Marginal Land Improvement

This leading edge project will assess if the gains seen by using biosolids in land reclamation projects (e.g. mining) will be mirrored on agricultural land considered "marginal" for crop production.

The coarse textured project soils contain limited organic matter, have relatively low fertility and produce historically low crop yields. It is expected that the addition of biosolids will not only improve crop productivity, but also the quality of key soil characteristics such as organic matter content and nutrient and water holding capacity. The goal of this project is to assess the potential of biosolids to improve Alberta's arable land base.

Project monitoring

The City and Alberta Environment and Parks are monitoring these projects to develop best management practices for these new uses of biosolids. The following documents have guided the development of these projects:

All health, safety and environmental standards are monitored and met when working with biosolids for these projects, in consultation with Alberta Environment and Parks:

  • Continuous monitoring of biosolids quality
  • Approval of the application sites
  • Distances from dwellings, property boundaries, water features, wells, roadways, etc.
  • Making sure biosolids are added at the appropriate rate
  • Monitoring biosolid areas for soil fertility, crop yield and quality
  • Voluntary potable water monitoring for wells within 1 km of the biosolids areas

Current annual reporting on the project is available. Stakeholder information packages for those living within a one-mile radius of the projects, as well as 2013-2017 annual reporting are available if requested.

If you would like to speak with someone to learn more about these projects or to request historical reporting, please contact 311 (or 403-268-2489 outside Calgary).