This article is part of a series called Six sustainability ideas that have gone mainstream in Canada. Each article explores an innovative sustainability idea that may have seemed radical a decade ago but is now considered a best practice. The series features inspiring ideas and projects being implemented in Canadian cities and towns of all sizes, plus resources to help you implement these solutions in your community.

Rancher with spray irrigation equipment
Rancher with spray irrigation equipment in Cranbrook, BC.

A sewage challenge: When a legal ruling mandated an upgrade of its wastewater treatment system, the City of Cranbrook, BC, set an ambitious goal: develop a world-class, sustainable facility that would meet the city's needs for the next 50-plus years while using every drop of effluent to create value. 

Sustainable solution: The city's solution was an award-winning reclaimed water facility that treats effluent using aerated ponds and UV disinfection and then uses it to irrigate forage land and a waterfowl nesting wetland. The irrigated land provides forage for about 1,200 cow-calf pairs and produces approximately 3,600 tonnes of hay, for a combined value of more than $1.2 million a year.

Green benefits: The project has produced social, economic and environmental benefits. Before the upgrades, the irrigation site was considered an unsanitary eyesore; now it's a popular area for tours, bird watching and recreation. It's also efficient to operate and a revenue generator, with local ranchers and the municipality sharing in the crop sales. 

Success secrets: The city credits the success to its long-term, collaborative visioning process, extensive consultation and practical approach to innovation. Rather than looking for leading-edge technologies, the city focused on using proven, off-the-shelf products in innovative ways. Its advice for other communities is to think long term and think differently from the accepted and conventional. 

Ready to wring value out of every drop of your wastewater?

Learn more about the City of Cranbrook's project with these resources:

Discover more sustainability ideas and project examples

Read the other articles in this series for more sustainability ideas and project examples that you can use in your community:

This series was inspired by "From Crazy to Common Sense: 'Radical' Ideas Whose Time Have Come," a workshop that was held at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities' 2016 Sustainable Communities Conference.

Want to explore all GMF-funded projects? Check out the Projects Database for a complete overview of funded projects and get inspired by municipalities of all sizes, across Canada. 

Visit the projects database