The Town of Altona wants to take its water conservation efforts to the next level. It is teaming up with the University of Manitoba's Civil Engineering department to study the quality of treated wastewater produced at the local lagoon, and whether it can be used for agricultural purposes such as irrigation or chemical applications.

According to Clint Derksen, public works manager for Altona, if successful, the study could result in less pressure on the area's water treatment plants.

"As strapped as we've been for water the last few years...especially last year we were really looking for alternate sources," he said. "If we could somehow help farmers have an accessible spot to get what is essentially good, clean water and not potable water for them to water their fields with rather than drinking water, that would really take some pressure off the system."

The year-long project will lead to one internship for a master's student in Civil Engineering, supervised by a professor in the department at the U of M. In the end, it is expected to yield a detailed report on the feasibility of this concept, the preliminary design, and estimated costs of any new treatment processes in order to make this a reality. The intern will be responsible for testing these processes in laboratory-scale experiments.

Ultimately, Derksen said the hope is to make upwards of half-a-million cubic metres of water available to producers.

"I can't see it happening this year because we're going to have to get the Province involved," he explained, noting the lagoon's operating license will need to be revised in order to accommodate this additional use. "It won't be a quick process, but if we can reduce the drought stage we may need to get into any time in the future, it'll be worth it."

A $30,000 grant through the Mitacs Accelerate Program is helping to fund the study, while the Town of Altona will kick in $7,500.