Environmental engineering is a discipline that utilizes scientific and engineering principles to improve the environment, with a special focus on air, water, and land resources. With accelerating population growth and limited resources, environmental engineers are taking a more prominent role in the world today with emerging concerns about water quality and water availability issues at the forefront. Further, employment in the environmental engineering area remains strong compared with other disciplines.
According to a recent report published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2008-09 edition of the Occupational Outlook Handbook):
Environmental engineers are projected to have employment growth of 25 percent during the coming decade, much faster than the average for all occupations. More environmental engineers will be needed to comply with environmental regulations and to develop methods of cleaning up existing hazards. A shift in emphasis toward preventing problems rather than controlling those that already exist, as well as increasing public health concerns resulting from population growth, also are expected to spur demand for environmental engineers.
Because of this employment growth, job opportunities should be good even as more students earn degrees. Environmental engineering research at the University of Nevada, Reno focuses primarily on water quality and quantity issues.
The environmental engineering program at the University of Nevada, Reno includes five primary faculty of diverse research interests and expertise, as well as numerous adjunct faculty from programs in Environmental Sciences, Hydrologic Sciences, and the Desert Research Institute.
For example, Amy Childress’ research interests include membrane contactor processes, pressure-driven membrane processes, colloidal and interfacial aspects of membrane processes, and solar ponds for brine reduction and energy recovery. Dean Adams works on aquatic chemistry, water and wastewater treatment, lake and reservoir ecosystems, beneficial uses of biosolids, sensitized photolysis, and analytical methods. Keith Dennett is interested in drinking water and wastewater treatment, physiochemical processes, sediment transport, and open channel hydraulics. Eric Marchand’s area of expertise encompasses biological processes for water and wastewater treatment, subsurface biogeochemistry, application of molecular microbiology and biochemistry to environmental engineering, and in-situ bioremediation. Edward Kolodziej’s research focus includes environmental chemistry, endocrine disrupting contaminants, contaminant occurrence, fate, and transport, pharmaceuticals and personal care products, non-point sources of pollutants, in-situ remediation, and the fate of contaminants during water reuse and recycling.
Amy Childress, Ph.D.
V. Dean Adams, Ph.D.
Keith Dennett, Ph.D., P.E.
Eric Marchand, Ph.D., P.E.
Edward Kolodziej, Ph.D.
Engineering Approaches for Prevention and Treatment of Acid Mine Drainage
Principal Investigator: Eric Marchand
Summary: Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) is a water quality problem throughout the world that lacks a clear, cost-effective solution. Much of the problem with AMD arises from the microbial mediation of metal releases from mine wastes, creating toxic metal and acid discharges. This project will investigate the role of enhanced heterotrophic microbial growth as an engineering control technique to lower the amount of arsenic released from arsenic bearing minerals at acid mine drainage (AMD) sites and control the arsenic speciation so it is not as mobile in the environment. This strategy will attempt to encourage the growth of microbes that do not produce acid in an effort to adjust the microbial ecology in a beneficial manner, thereby preventing AMD.
Acid Mine Discharge illustrating water quality impacts.
Evaluation of the Applicability of Centrate as a Nutrient Supplement to Irrigation Water
Principal Investigator: Eric Marchand
Summary: One effective and cheap mechanism that can prevent the degradation of water and air quality is to limit or reduce the discharge of pollutant streams from engineered processes into the environment. For example, centrate is an undesirable liquid byproduct of wastewater treatment that is high in nitrogen and phosphorus. The nutrients present in centrate offer a potential benefit of reusing the centrate by blending this waste stream with reuse water to lower the fertilizer demand of irrigation water. This project proposes to reduce waste streams from wastewater treatment and to benefit plants by investigating the chemical composition of centrate and then supplementing irrigation water with low concentrations of centrate.
Centrate mixed irrigation system trial.
Assessment and Optimization of Aquifer Recharge and Recovery Systems for the Removal of Trace Organic Contaminants
Principal Investigator: Edward Kolodziej
Summary: Despite the many Aquifer Recharge and Recovery (ARR) systems in operation or planned for water reuse and recovery systems, few ARR systems are specifically designed for active treatment of trace organic contaminants. While natural attenuation is the primary mechanism of contaminant removal in most ARR systems, numerous opportunities exist in ARR systems to improve contaminant removal by optimizing degradation rates in the subsurface. Because hydraulic retention times of weeks to years are typical for ARR systems, relatively inefficient degradation processes that are kinetically slow can potentially be used to obtain near complete removal of contaminants. Infiltration basins, recharge wells, the vadose zone, and the saturated zone all represent potential control points that could be used to engineer ARR systems for optimized contaminant removal. Engineered ARR systems might be cost-effective alternatives to additional unit operations in WWTPs if rates of natural attenuation in the subsurface could be accelerated by control of the reduction-oxidation state of the ARR system or by infiltrating chemical additives into the ARR system. Using this strategy, it may be possible to shift some of the “burden” of improving water quality from WWTP unit operations to the ARR system. Specifically, engineered treatment in ARR systems might partially replace the need for expensive and complex nanofiltration, reverse osmosis, or ozonation treatment of recharge water. Conceptually, this project regards the ARR system as an extension and integral part of the WWTP treatment train because it can represent additional treatment barriers preventing the occurrence of trace organic contaminants at the point of reuse.
Transport and Transformation of Natural and Synthetic Steroid Hormones at Beef Cattle and Dairy Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)
Principal Investigator: Edward Kolodziej
Summary: This collaborative project (with UC Berkeley and UC Davis, funded by the EPA STAR program) assesses the occurrence, fate, and transport of synthetic steroid hormones used for beef cattle production and endogenous steroids produced by cattle and cows from concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). We hypothesize that the most important pathways for steroid releases from CAFOs are the discharge of contaminated stormwater runoff and migration in groundwater recharged through animal waste lagoons and animal feeding areas. The fate of synthetic hormones is being evaluated at research and commercial beef cattle feedlots located in California, Colorado and Iowa.
At the University of Nevada, Reno, methods for the analysis of synthetic steroid hormones are being developed using a sensitive GC/MS/MS analytical method. To quantify the relationship between growth hormone treatment and surface water releases, stormwater runoff samples are being collected at two research feedlots where hormone administration rates and waste handling procedures are rigorously controlled. Additional insight into steroid hormone fate and transport will be obtained by collecting samples at locations throughout two research feedlots and several full-scale commercial beef cattle CAFOs.
Water Characterization and Sediment Transport Analysis of the Upper Walker River
Principal Investigator: Keith Dennett
Summary: Walker Lake in western Nevada is a desert terminal lake that is some of the little remaining habitat for endangered Lahontan Cutthroat trout. The Walker Lake Basin also is one of Nevada’s most productive agricultural areas, creating conflict between environmental and agricultural uses of the limited water resources of the Walker River. This project attempts to characterize sediment and dissolved salt fluxes through the Walker River basin, as one of the main mechanisms of habitat degradation in Walker Lake is the increasing lake salinity, driven by salts entering the lake via Walker River.
Topaz Lake in the Walker River Basin.
Laboratory experiments in conjunction with field sampling indicate that the West Walker River has approximately twice the dissolved salts when compared to the East Walker River. A comparison between the historical data for the United States Geological Survey (USGS) site at Wabuska, Nevada and CWR #3 in this project indicated that the transport of total dissolved solids (TDS) dropped by approximately 82% corresponding to an 82% reduction in salt flux when compared with historical data gathered in 1995. The observed statistical correlations between analytes studied and flow and the difference in water quality between the east and west forks of the Walker River, indicated a potential for controlling the mass of dissolved salts on the combined Walker River, and an increase in water quality, through flow regulation on the east and west forks of the Walker River.
In evaluating a student's application to the environmental engineering graduate program, the faculty will consider all aspects of the student's credentials. This includes academic performance in their respective past programs, scores on entrance examinations (GRE and TOEFL, if applicable), references, and the applicant's stated goals.
Financial aid available to students ranges from full or partial Teaching or Research Assistantships. Most graduate students are supported by assistantships. Awards are made on the basis of scholarship and promise for outstanding achievement. The applicant's grade point average, score on the GRE and letters of recommendation are the primary means used for selecting new students to receive financial aid.
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering
Environmental Engineering Program
University of Nevada, Reno/0258
Reno, NV 89557-0258
Phone: (775) 784-6937
Fax: (775) 784-1390