The Alberta Rural Organic Waste to Resources Network (AROWRN) wants you to know more about the safe and cost-effective conversion of municipal wastewater and biosolids to useful woody biomass resources, through the use of fast-growing poplar and willow. Our group was formed with support from the Alberta Rural Development Network to share information arising from research projects supported by federal and provincial funding since 2006. These poplar and willow projects have demonstrated technologies that are in use around the world, in a context useful for Alberta organizations and based on Alberta’s climate and soil conditions.
Wastewater can be applied safely through an irrigation system and utilized by plants to enhance growth rate. The technology also keeps nutrients and microbes out of surface and ground water. Systems have been demonstrated which deliver wastewater to the plants safely, effectively and with little operator intervention.
In addition, biosolids can be safely incorporated into the soil, raising organic matter, increasing water holding capacity, and supplying slow-release nutrients to sustain and optimize growth of the above ground woody biomass. Land application of biosolids is a proven management option having been practiced in Alberta for over thirty years.
Projects are designed and undertaken in accordance with applicable regulations, guidelines, and approvals required by Environment and Parks and municipal authorities. Nutrient loading rates and water uptake are monitored over the long term to provide sustainable growth of the biomass crop while realizing the design potential of the system.
Demand for woody biomass is on the rise. Hybrid willow and poplar woody biomass can be economically harvested and used for a variety of end-uses, including: composting and fabricated feedstock; building products; municipal landscaping; and as a replacement for fossil fuels in heat and power generation. Woody biomass produced from the system can be competitively priced and will provide predictable properties for end users.
Many rural communities face substantial upgrade costs to meet increasingly stringent wastewater treatment regulations. Land-based treatment of municipal wastewater presents an opportunity to get the job done at lower cost, while maximizing environmental benefit.
By planting fast-growing tree and shrub species, effluent and biosolids can be utilized safely and productively, which can save you money on residuals management, while also providing competitively priced biomass resources.