WERC’s Environmental Design Contest is a unique event that brings together industry, government and academia in the search for improved environmental solutions. The event was successfully carried out for the 23rd time in 2013.

During this competition, students were given the opportunity to choose a challenge from four different tasks related to different environmental issues.

For the Open Task, teams identified a real-life environmental, energy, or water related issue and the market for their solution to this issue, designed and demonstrated their proposed solution, and discussed the advantages and disadvantages of their solution versus both current technologies and other possible approaches. The University of Arkansas and University of California, Riverside shared the Open Task first place award and each received $1,750.

The objective of the Development of an Improved Solar Distillation Unit task was for students to develop their own version of a solar still, without using a commercial unit, and document the performance of their unit. The purpose of the challenge was to build the unit with the highest water production per volume of process equipment or the highest water production per unit cost of the equipment.  The first place $2,500 prize went to California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo. Ohio University won the Judge’s Choice $500 award for Outstanding Bench. Judge’s Choice $500 award for Outstanding Paper was given to the University of Idaho and the Judge’s Choice $500 award for Purest Water was presented to the University of Maryland.

The Nitrate Removal in Rural Water Treatment Systems task was intended for students to develop a water treatment system for a rural groundwater well with targeted nitrate removal that addressed the challenges associated with rural water treatment.  The teams’ projects were evaluated on the effectiveness of nitrate removal and consideration was given to designing the system for rural water infrastructure.  The University of Waterloo earned the first place $2,500 prize, the second place $1,000 award was given to the University of Idaho, and the Judge’s Choice $500 award for outstanding Bench scale was presented to Ohio University.

The Hydrocarbon Removal task challenged the students to devise a cost effective treatment system that addresses hydrocarbon fouling of a polymeric RO element. The ideal solution would be demonstrable in applications where 180 ppm of hydrocarbons exist and must be removed from industrial water. The participating team’s pretreatment must enable a sustained RO flux and rejection over a 30 minute time period.  For the fourth task the winners for the awards were:  University of Idaho, Judge’s Choice $750 award for Outstanding Paper and Bench Scale; University of Arkansas, Judge’s Choice $750 award for Outstanding Oral Presentation; and Louisiana State University, Judge’s Choice $750 award for Best Sustainable Approach.

Other awards were given as well from supporting institutions and organizations.

First place in the new Peer Awards category went to the University of California, Riverside for task 1 with $500. Second place tied the University of Waterloo for task 3 and the University of Arkansas for task 4. Both Universities were awarded $250.

The Renewable Energy Application Demonstration presented by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, awarded California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo, Ohio University and the University of Maryland for task 2 as well as the University of Idaho for task 3 with $1,000.

The Freeport-McMoRan Cooper & Gold Innovation and Sustainability award of $2,500 was given to Northern Arizona University for their use of paper pulp sludge for landfill capping in task 1.

Finally, the California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo won the Intel Environmental Innovation $2,500 award for their solar distillation process in task 2.

In addition to the awards given, the Institute for Energy and the Environment, part of the Chemical Engineering Department at New Mexico State University has announced a new program to extend three students’ participation in the IEE/WERC: A Consortium for Environmental Education and Technology Development’s 23rd Annual International Environmental Design Contest.

The three students will have the opportunity to continue to develop the design of their systems, which were demonstrated during the contest. Their work will examine solar desalination issues and will take place at the Brackish Groundwater National Desalination Research Facility in Alamogordo and at the IEE facilities at the NMSU Las Cruces campus.