Posted by: Vicki Burns | May 3, 2012

How Growing Algae in the Upper Watershed Could Slow It Down in the Lake

Last night I attended the annual meeting of the Lake Winnipeg Foundation. As often happens, I found out some very interesting information during the informal part of the evening and thought it was worth sharing. Rick Gamble, Mayor of Dunnottar, who is on the board of the East Interlake Conservation District (EICD), told me about a new project they are undertaking in their area.

Algae Cells – Growing Algae website

Essentially it is the idea of deliberately growing algae in ponds on agricultural land and then harvesting the algae to use in several ways including fertilizer and bio-fuels. There are several benefits to this concept starting with holding water on the land as a flood mitigation measure. The algae growth in the ponds would take up some of the excess nutrients that are fuelling the excessive algae growth in lakes and the harvesting it would allow recapture of the valuable nutrient, phosphorus, which is essential for growing crops.

Armand Belanger, manager of the EICD, told me that they have over 20 farmers interested in pursuing alternative land use practices that will help them to manage their often wet fields, in ways that will produce some economic benefits. Armand described the deliberate growing and harvesting of algae as an example of a “bio-economical crop”.  It’s encouraging to learn of these innovative ideas that will be so essential if we want to decrease the traditional approach of drainage. Who can blame farmers for wanting to drain their land in order to plant crops? But if they can make money by holding water on their land and growing different types of crops, it will benefit not only their bottom line, but the surrounding environment and ultimately, the lake. It’s a win-win solution that I hope takes off.

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