Cattails for Clean Community Waterways

By Richard Grosshans, Karla Zubrycki, Garth Hardy on April 28, 2014

In 2013, the City of Winnipeg and IISD embarked on a project to turn locally harvested cattail (Typha) and native prairie grasses into pellets to burn in a pellet stove located at the Living Prairie Museum, a facility run by the City.

This video documents the process of harvesting, processing, pelletizing and burning the plant materials.

This project has multiple benefits. Cattail and grasses absorb large amounts of phosphorus, a nutrient that can cause algal blooms when it enters waterways. Harvesting cattail and prairie grasses captures this phosphorus before it can enter urban waterways and Lake Winnipeg—which was named the most threatened lake in the world in 2013 by the Global Nature Fund. At the same time, renewable and sustainable bioenergy is produced. The pellets were used to provide space heating for the Living Prairie Museum in the winter and spring of 2014.

IISD has been exploring the use of cattail harvesting to improve water quality for more than eight years. This project was the first time IISD applied the concept in an urban setting.