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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 investment

In 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

Project awards:

Emerald Awards

Willow Tree Farm

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

The willow farm is 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, feed source, mulch and erosion control, and as biomass for fuel.

Assessment and monitoring data collected as part of this project is 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

The goal of this leading edge project is to assess the potential of biosolids to improve Alberta's arable land base.  

The coarse textured soils from this project area contain limited organic matter, have relatively low fertility, and produce historically low crop yields. The addition of biosolids has not only improved crop productivity, but also the quality of key soil characteristics such as organic matter content and nutrient and water holding capacity. Specifically, if the gains seen by using biosolids in land reclamation projects (e.g. mining) can it be mirrored on agricultural land considered "marginal" for crop production.

Project monitoring

The City and Alberta Environment and Protected Areas are monitoring these projects to develop best management practices for these new uses of biosolids.

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

  • 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

Information packages for those living within a one-mile radius of the projects, annual project fact sheets, as well as annual reporting are available upon request.

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).