PARC is working with SaskWater and other partners on an effluent irrigated woodlot demonstration project located a few kilometres south of Moose Jaw.
Currently most Saskatchewan effluent is discharged into watercourses, where it often causes problems because of its nutrient load. But land-based effluent disposal is a viable option for effluent management, and well tested around the world. Effluent can be used to grow agricultural crops or trees.
Prairie people value their town and city parks and street trees highly, and in rural Saskatchewan shelterbelts are also highly valued. It makes sense to look to create more tree and forest opportunities in southern Saskatchewan. Land-based effluent management may provide one way of generating more tree and forest experiences in the southern half of the province.
In a Heritage Forest system, once trees are well established (at around 10 years), it will be possible to cease irrigation. Established trees are reasonably drought tolerant. One can then move the irrigation to an adjoining piece of land and start the next age cohort of the Heritage Forest. By repeating this pattern, one can establish a diverse aged forest. Alternatively, one can choose to continue the irrigation process at a given site until the forest is fully mature.
On the Moose Jaw test site a wide variety of tree species (23) are being tested to see how they perform under a moderate level of effluent irrigation. Just as in a natural forest, some of the tested species (such as the pines and poplar) are relatively fast growing, while other species (such as spruce) are slower growing.
There are two objectives of the Heritage Forest experiment: 1) to provide a physical and visible demonstration of how an effluent-driven Heritage Forest could look and function ecologically, and 2) to discover which tree species can be recommended to interested communities for inclusion in their own effluent-driven Heritage Forest. Component trees could include pines, spruce, larch, oak, elm, ash, maple, basswood, poplars and willows. Depending on its size and location, once the irrigation phase is over, a Heritage Forest could be used for a number of recreational activities.
Visit SaskWater’s Effluent Irrigated Woodlot Demonstration Project website.