Olds College Builds New Wetland Treatment Research Facility

12.05.17-olds.collegeBy Ian Morrow

Golf has long been thought of, as a “waster” of water but the reality is that the majority of water used is returned to the environment. The public perception is that the golf course industry has a negative impact on water quality in the environment. Since we are returning the water to the environment then the real question is; are we returning the water cleaner than we received it or not?

12.05.17-wetland.conceptual.drawingOlds College wetland conceptual drawingWhat if we could take substandard water, cleanse it to irrigate an entire golf course, cleanse it again and return it to the environment for downstream use cleaner than we received it? Would a golf course then be viewed as a savior of the water ecosystem and could the environmentalists be begging us to build more? Seems a little far fetched doesn’t it, but Olds College doesn’t think so! A new multimillion-dollar engineered Wetland and phase 3 of the Olds College Botanic Gardens is nearing completion. This site measures over 40,000 square meters and will be generating research for the preservation and treatment of water through “polishing” and desalination. The purpose will be to produce high quality recycled water through the removal of sediments, contaminants, and undesirable nutrients. The research facility will be used to study the cleaning of several types of water sources through an engineered sequence of ponds that will incorporate the role of aquatic plants.  A series of sensors will be recording retention times, flow rates, pH, EC and SAR. While this research facility has had some fantastic interest from the land development industry, municipalities as well as the industrial manufacturing industry believe that the golf course industry can be a major benefactor of this research. We are nearing a time when we could be “kicked off” or see a significant reduction of our water supplies. It has already happened to several golf courses in Southern Ontario. They have been forced to find water from other sources that may potentially lead to a massive new cost to purchase water or having to use a substandard quality that eventually can significantly reduce playing conditions. If the proper planning or foresight for this potential is not happening now then the choices that the facilities will confront when this happens will be limited. Unfortunately one of the tougher choices being faced is the economic viability of a golf course in this predicament as well as the acceptance of poorer turf quality.   In Southern Alberta there is already a moratorium placed on any new water licenses being issued. This means that if you are not able to have someone’s current license transferred or a municipality has room on their license your project does not get built. If a golf course was proposed or was renovated with an engineered wetland incorporated into the property – the possibility exists that you could prove that not only were you sourcing out substandard water but also more importantly you were discharging cleaner water than what entered the golf course in the first place! Imagine a golf course being viewed as a place where poor water went to get cleaned instead of a place where good water went to get contaminated. Can the golf course industry afford this kind of engineering? Can the industry afford not to do this? For more information on this project and other research at Olds College go to: http://www.oldscollege.ca/occi/facilities/