Undergrads Spend Two Weeks Down Under Studying Water Sustainability

Water-PIRE undergradsTwelve undergraduate students – nine from UCI, one from UCSD and two from UCLA – completed a week of orientation in early July before heading Down Under to participate in a six-week research experience, including two weeks in Australia. The students will learn about water challenges facing Australia and the actions being taken relative to research, policy and infrastructure engineering.

The summer course is part of the UCI Water-Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) project, spearheaded by Samueli School civil and environmental engineer Stanley Grant.  The UCI Water-PIRE is an NSF funded collaboration between Australian and a trio of Southern California universities to study the technologies and policies implemented during the Millennium Drought and its aftermath.  The goal is to find low-energy methods of turning wastewater into drinking water.San Joaquin Marsh Reserve

The students spent a week gearing up for the experience, with lectures covering climate change, economics and governance, wastewater treatment and reuse, and storm water capture and reuse. They also took field trips to the UCI San Joaquin Marsh, the Los Angeles Sanitation District and the Groundwater Replenishment System run by the Orange County Sanitation District and the Orange county Water District.

They also toured the natural treatment system and storm water capture reuse projects at UCI. “Seeing water treatment in action reinforced for me why we are doing this,” said Emily Parker, one of the UCLA students.

The project links five universities in two water-stressed regions of the world that have unique and complementary expertise in the development and deployment of rainwater tanks, biofilters and waste stabilization ponds for potable substitution and watershed protection. Water-PIRE undergrads“It’s an absolute dream to be given this opportunity by the National Science Foundation,” Grant says. “The southwestern U.S. has much to learn from Australia on how to thrive in the face of dwindling freshwater supplies.”

None of the students had been to Australia before, but many of them have the travel bug, and all were excited to go.  Once they return, they’ll spend the last three weeks of the program at UCI analyzing and then presenting what they learned at a mini symposium in early August.