Task Problem Statements and FAQs Below


General Information

Desktop Manual Correction
Correction: The first version of the Desktop Division Manual incorrectly stated the number of pages for the written report. WERC has established that the desktop-study technical report should total no more than 17 pages, including title page, executive summary, figures, and references. Note that this is a one-page increase from the 16-page limit stated in the task problem statement.

WERC Short Course:

 Government Regulations and Safety

This 4-session course is designed to help teams gain solid understanding of judges’ expectations for addressing government regulations and safety protocols needed for full-scale design implementation.

Register for Short CourseGo to the Contact Us form to register.


Due Date Changes:

A number of due dates have changed since the task problem statements were published. See dates at right.


What: Optional webinar Short Course to help your team establish strong regulation & safety sections of the technical report.

When: December ’20 & January ’21

Contact Us: To obtain links to the Zoom recordings or to request a live session in February.





Task 6 (Open Task) Test Plan: Due Feb. 25, 2021
Preliminary Report: Due February 25, 2021
ESP: Not required for any task, since your team will not be running your bench-scale demos in Las Cruces.

Task Track A:  Government Need

  Task 1: PFAS DestructionProblem statement pdf will download. Task updated 10/13/20.


Task 1D: PFAS Destruction–VirtualDesktop Study
Task Sponsor: CDM Smith

Task 1 FAQs

Q1. Will there be a virtual-only option for this task?
You may move ahead with a virtual solution to this task.


Task Track B:  Internet of Things (IOT) for Environmental Applications

  Task 2: Transpac Ocean-Atm SensorProblem Statement pdf (Updated 10/13/20) Task Sponsor: X2nSat

Task 2 FAQs

Q1: Will there be a virtual-only option for this task?
A1: You may request it, but based on the nature of the task, we think that each team member can work remotely on different portions of the task. If this is a concern for you, please contact us!


Task Track C:  Industry Need

  Task 3: Sorbing Metals using Ag By-productsProblem Statement pdf–Updated 10/13/20


Task 3D: Sorbing Metals Using Ag By-productsProblem statement pdf will download.
Task Sponsor: Brown & Caldwell

Task 3 FAQs

Teams will prepare their own contest synthetic solutions using the Sample Preparation Table below
Each team will prepare their own synthetic solution for testing at the contest. The Task 3 Sample Preparation Table is provided since waters of hydration can vary depending on the chemical’s source. If the source sulfate differs in number of waters of hydration from the list shown in the leftmost column, it will be necessary to recalculate the amount of the available hydrate needed. As an example, the rightmost column shows the mass of the pure sulfate needed in each case (zero waters of hydration). Teams will collect and send to WERC both a pre- and post-bench-scale sample of their synthetic solution for analysis to ensure proper starting chemistry.

Task 3 Sample Preparation Table

Correction to task: overall metal loading
Task outcome should read: “Reduce the overall metal loading by at least 90%.” (There should be no reference to As, Cd, or Pb <1ppm as those are already below 1 ppm)
Q1: Can we use a mixture of two by-products or are we limited to one?
A1: You are not limited to one. Use any combination of ag. by-products you wish.
Q2: Are electrical components like air pumps and heaters permitted in a passive treatment system?
A2: Sorry, they are not. A passive system should not require any type of input or outside intervention.


Task 4: Mine Tailings ReuseProblem Statement pdf–Updated 10/13/20


Task 4D: Mine Tailings Reuse-DesktopProblem statement pdf will download.
Task Sponsor: New Mexico Mining Association

Task 4 FAQs

Q1. Is there water in the mine tailings when they're ready to be processed into a product?
A1. Yes, the tailings slurry has 45% to 50% water by mass on average when it is sent to the tailings dam for impoundment. Teams will receive near-dry tailings samples.


Task Track D:  Environmental Public Health


Task 5: Produced Water Treatment TrainTask updated 11/12/2020



Task 5D: Produced Water Treatment Train—Desktop StudyProblem statement pdf will download.
Task Sponsor: NGL Water Solutions
Task 5 FAQs
How can we ensure that the mixture is homogenous?
We are initiating these changes in the homogenizing procedure to ensure that all teams use comparable synthetic solutions in their bench-scale apparatus: 1. Double the amounts of each component in the oil phase (to allow for some oil adhering to the mixing vessel). 2. Place your solution in a kitchen blender. Blend on highest speed for 5 minutes. 3. During the contest, at this point you will collect a sample of the solution and ship it for TOC testing to determine oil/water ratio. 4. Immediately place a portion of the solution on a slide with a grid and photograph the oil droplets using a microscope with attached camera. Expect the droplets to be on the order of 1 micron in diameter on the slide.
TrueSyn 200I source:
We have 40 grams ready to ship to you. Contact werc@nmsu.edu to request yours.If you need more than 40 g, the manufacturer, RB Products generously offers to ship this to you for only the cost of container, packaging and shipping.Contact: micah@rbproductsinc.com (and thank him profusely!)
Arizona Test Dust sources:
We have 10 grams ready to ship to you. Contact werc@nmsu.edu to request yours.Option 2: If you need more than 10 grams, the best price we have found in small quantity is from Powder Technologies Inc (Contact: levi@powdertechnologyinc.com). They offer 4 kg for $60 (+ shipping + $20 surcharge for small order). It cost us $96 for 4 kg.
Bentonite Clay source:
We will test your bench-scale apparatus using AquaGel sodium bentonite drilling clay. The manufacturer is Baroid Industrial Drilling Products. It comes in very large quantities. We have 40 grams (or more, on request) ready to ship to you. Contact werc@nmsu.edu to request yours.
Task Correction: DI Water amount
The amount of DI water in the synthetic solution should be 750 mL.
Instructions for Mixing the Oil Phase:
It is very important that this oil be mixed quite vigorously before treatment.  The oil in this produced water is in very small droplets that did not separate in the battery tanks over a few days.
Q1: I am surprised at the low values for TrueSyn200i, Xylene, and Hexadecane. Are these correct?
A1: Yes. The production lines from shale wells producing oil go to battery tanks.  Further separation of oil and water occurs in these tanks.  The oil is recovered, the water then goes for disposal in UIC Class 2 disposal wells or might be treated for recycle.  The water coming off the battery tanks may have 70 – 150 ppm of oil.
Is there an error in the amount of solids in the synthetic solution?
No, it is not in error. This is why: When the shale formation is fracked, immense quantities of ultra fine solid particles are created and carried to the surface with the PW. The larger particles easily gravity separate. We are interested in removing the very fine particles that remain.
Q. Can our treatment result in a reduction in salinity?
A: The task is not explicitly a desalination task. Since most non-desalination pretreatment technologies have little impact on salinity levels, your results are not expected to reduce salinity. However, it is fine if your treatment does reduce salinity.


Track E:  Open Task

  Open Task–Teams select a challengeProblem Statement pdf–Updated 11/12/20


Open Task – Desktop DivisionClick for Problem Statement
Task Sponsor: El Paso Electric Company

Task 6 FAQs

Q1. What should be in the Preliminary Report?
A1. Your Preliminary Report includes the Task Plan and the Test Plan. You may submit it prior to the due date. This will allow our staff more time to plan for your bench-scale operations. The emphasis is content, not flowery prose. Make it brief and to the point. Use bulleted lists when appropriate.

Task 6 FAQs


The 2021 WERC Environmental Design Contest in Las Cruces, NM. April 11-14, 2021

Flash Talk Competition

Helping schools meet new ABET Student Outcome 3–Teams will give a 3-minute Flash Talk to members of the local community, engineering professionals, faculty, and other students.

Monday, 12 April, 2021.

See TEAM Manual for details: 2021 WERC Team Manual (coming soon)

Archives of the WERC Environmental Design Contests

Here you can find tasks for previous years, as well as the teams that won them.

Platinum Sponsor

Gold Sponsor

Silver Sponsor