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Floating Treatment Wetlands

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Freshwater lakes around the world are in trouble.

Urbanization, waste treatment, landscape changes, agriculture and natural resource extraction cause runoff of nutrients, contaminants, petroleum products and organic materials into freshwater lakes around the world.

Floating treatment wetlands or islands are small artificial platforms that allow aquatic plants to grow in water that is typically too deep for them.

Floating treatment wetlands (FTWs) or islands are small artificial platforms that allow aquatic plants to grow in water that is typically too deep for them. The unique ecosystem that develops creates the potential to capture nutrients and transform common pollutants that would otherwise plague and harm our lakes into harmless by-products.

For the past decade, our research has explored sustainable water and land management that both creates opportunities for economic growth and improves the environment. We have shown that, by harvesting cattail, nutrients (such as phosphorus) taken up during growth and stored within the plant are permanently removed from the soil.

In a study at the University of Manitoba, we also discovered that FTW plants can be effective at removing certain pharmaceuticals and herbicides from freshwater bodies—which proves significant when we consider the increasing number of those elements that are entering our freshwater systems. We are now exploring the potential for FTWs to help clean up oil spills (of crude oil and diluted bitumen) in a planned study at IISD Experimental Lakes Area.

Over the last few years, we have deployed a number of floating wetlands in various locations, from the IISD Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario for research to a “realworld” application in a residential stormwater pond in Lorette, Manitoba. We are also collaborating with other organizations, for example with Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg on the new FTW they deployed in their duck pond.

  • Brochure
    Floating Treatment Wetlands: Keeping our fresh water clean and healthy

    Floating Treatment Wetlands: Keeping our fresh water clean and healthy

    We explain how, where and why floating treatment wetlands can be used to keep freshwater bodies clean around the world. Read More
  • Report
    Floating Treatment Wetlands: Keeping our fresh water clean and healthy

    Floating Treatment Wetlands: Keeping our fresh water clean and healthy

    This short, engaging storybook takes you through what Floating Treatment Wetlands are, and how they could really help us keep bodies of fresh water clean and healthy. Read More
  • Video
    How to Build a Floating Wetland

    How to Build a Floating Wetland

    Not only do floating wetlands look super cool, they could help us keep fresh water free of whole range of pollutants—maybe even oil spills! Madeline and Richard take us through how to make one, in this short video. Read More