July 2023

WEX Center Team

Presents at Fog Conference 

The WEX Center team (Prof. Yoonjin Won and Dr. MAnsur Abahusayn) presents a poster at the 9th International Conference on Fog, Fog Collection and Dew at Colorado State University in Fort Collins (July 22-28).

This work is a collaboration with industry between Prof. Won's laboratory and WEX Fellow Dr. Abahusayn. The title of the poster is ∑ 10⁶ = 1 HIGH YIELD ZERO-CARBON COALESCENCE OF ATMOSPHERIC LIQUID MICRO-DROPLETS.

June 2023

WEX Center Inaugurates

International Joint Laboratory 

The WEX Center inaugurated the International Joint Laboratory on Water-Energy Nexus with a ceremony on June 12. The Joint Lab is a collaborative initiative with the NorthEast Petroleum University in Daqing, China. At the ceremony, held both in person and via zoom, top representatives of the two institutions participated and the lab plaques were unveiled. 

Photos by Elinor Austin

For UCI, Provost Hal Stern signed the memorandum of understanding in place between our two institutions. This agreement was facilitated by the UCI Global Engagement Office. The personnel from the WEX Center and NEPU will participate in joint research, which will include visits to the sites of the Joint Lab at UCI and in China. 

June 2023

Circular Water Economy Colloquium

The WEX Center is please to announce the Circular Water Economy Colloquium held on June 5th by Daniel Nolasco, the IWA Vice-President and Fellow of the WEX Center.


Abstract: There is a common tendency of understanding Circular Economy (CE) in water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) as reusing water, recycling nutrients (e.g., from solids treatment) and recovering energy through co-generation with biogas. However, the reduction of infrastructure needed in WRRFs as a CE measure is often overlooked. Experience with optimization of existing facilities through Process Audits leading to infrastructure reduction will be presented as an important aspect in a CE and decarbonization strategy. The CapEx and OpEx implications of optimization vis-à-vis more traditional methodologies for plant expansions or upgrades will be exemplified with recent case studies, stressing the water-energy-carbon nexus and some overlooked dynamics in the water sector.

Daniel Nolasco has over 30 years of engineering experience in applying dynamic modeling techniques for design and optimization of water reclamation and wastewater treatment plants. He has published over 100 technical papers in journals and conference proceedings and has co-authored four books. His clarification/thickening model is used in most wastewater treatment simulators, has received over 1200 citations, and is considered by the International Water Association as one of the “10 most significant groundbreaking papers during the [past] 40 years” in Water Research. He has received numerous international awards, including a nomination for the Governor General of Canada Award. He works as a consultant for numerous industries and water utilities, advising numerous boards of directors. Daniel is: Vice-President and Fellow of the International Water Association (IWA); Fellow of the Water Environment Federation, where he served as director (trustee) for several years; Fellow of the Water-Energy Nexus Center at the University of California, Irvine; Chair of the independent Technical Advisory Panel of the Green Climate Fund. Daniel has a Civil Engineering degree (U. of Buenos Aires), a Master in Environmental Engineering (McMaster U., Canada), and a Master in Management of Technology from MIT.

Summer 2022

Prof. Adeyemi Adeleye is the new Associate Director of WEX

Prof. Adeyemi Adeleye is now in the WEX Leadership Team as the new Associate Director. He joins Prof. Sunny Jiang in this role.

He has been leading the WEX Center efforts focuses at the intersection between PFAS and microplastics in the water sector.

The WEX Leadership Team takes the opportunity to thank Prof. Detwiler, the outgoing Associate Director.

June 2022

Dr. Kati Bell from Brown and Caldwell

named WEX Fellow

Dr. Kati Bell, Vice President and Director of Research and Innovation at Brown and Caldwell, was named WEX Fellow in June 2022. Kati has been actively involved in collaborative research with the WEX Center since 2020, focusing on microplastics in water reclamation and reuse, PFAS, and viral markers in wastewater collection and treatment. She has extensive experience in applied research and innovation and has served as Project Manager for multiple projects.

Dr. Bell holds a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from Vanderbilt University, M.S. degrees in civil engineering and biology from Tennessee Technological University, and a B.S. in biochemistry from the University of Dallas.

May 2022

WEX Center presentation at 2022 Brazil Water Week

Director Rosso, on behalf of the WEX Center, presented the Center's expertise on Energy Efficiency in Wastewater Treatment. This presentation was part of the session on Energy Efficiency Management in Practice (Sessão 4.2 - Gestão da Eficiência Energética na Prática: Foco na Obtenção de Resultados).

May 2022

The WEX Center hosts a Workshop with Water Utilities on Viral Surrogates

Prof. Sunny Jiang, Associate Director of the WEX Center and Chair of CEE@UCI, organized a workshop on Viral Surrogates Monitoring for Water Reuse. The U.S. EPA has funded a research project to understand the potential for implement viral surrogates to indicate viral safety of municipal wastewater reuse (EPA-G2021-STAR-A1). In this event, structured like a WEF Forum, utilities lead the conversation instigated by the project team and provide early feedback on the project direction and on industry priorities in municipal wastewater reuse. 

March 2022

WEX Center presentation at Mexican conference for World Water Day

WEX Director Prof. Rosso presenting at the DÍA MUNDIAL DEL AGUA (WORLD WATER DAY) Conference held on the 22nd of March, 2022

Director Rosso, on behalf of the WEX Center, presented on groundwater treatment and recharge. This overarching topic is central to the interest of Southern California and of the WEX Center. Other WEX Center faculty are actively engaged in related research (e.g., Detwiler, Jiang). 

March 2022

The WEX Center hosts a Microplastics Workshop with Water Utilities

On March 23rd, the WEX Center team organized a workshop on Microplastics in Wastewater Treatment and Water Reclamation. This event was co-organized and sponsored by Brown and Caldwell. Several water utilities from Southern California participated, discussing regulatory drive, sampling and analytical methods, and the steps forward. UCI students assisted this group of professionals in an engaged discussion. Prof. Bob Andrews from the University of Toronto was guest speaker and presented their experience on microplastics sampling and characterization. In the photo is Hélène Baribeau from Brown and Caldwell, instigating the discussion on the regulatory drive in California.

March 2022

WEX Center partners with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory team to apply data analytics to water reuse

Here we will develop tools/methods to overcome data sparsity, sensor issues, and transferability challenges, combining the development of a descriptive dynamic process and energy model with the predictions from a digital/physical twin couple used to emulate normal and anomalous conditions.

The WEX Center team lead by Director Rosso, including Dr. B. Tarroja and WEX Fellow Dr. Imre Takacs, is partnering with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory Team (lead by Philip Bingham) to apply data analytics to water reuse.

This 2-year project is sponsored by NAWI, the DOE-funded National Alliance for Water Innovation. The partners of this projects are: Orange County Water District, Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, Hampton Roads Sanitation Districts, Glacier Technologies International, and Brown and Caldwell.

November 2021

Prof. Won and WEX Fellow Dr. Abahusayn reach record moisture harvest from fog

Prof. Yoonjin Won of the UCI Mechanical and Aerospace Department has been working with WEX Fellow Dr. Abahusayn on enhancing the harvest of atmospheric moisture from fog. They reached a record performance exceeding 75% recovery in their experiments.

This technology breakthrough is expected to disrupt the atmospheric collection field with applications to arid areas worldwide. 

August 2021

Dr. Nikos Melitas from LACSD

named WEX Fellow

Dr. Nikos Melitas, Research Manager at the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, was named WEX Fellow in August 2021. Dr. Melitas has been fostering collaboration with faculty, postdocs, and students of the WEX Center for a number of years. As LACSD's research head, he has catalyzed research on energy-efficiency, monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 virus in water, and advanced data analytics. He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering from the University of Arizona.

Brown and Caldwell joins the WEX Center

Starting in April 2021, Brown and Caldwell joins the WEX Center with the sponsorship of research on microplastics and PFAS. Prof. Adeleye and Rosso will expand the research activities on these emerging contaminants to include the transport in the environment through solid streams. Undergraduate and graduate students will be supported by the WEX Center thanks to this collaboration.

WEX Leaders present WBE work on COVID

The  WEX Center Associate Director and Director, Profs. Jiang and Rosso, presented the WEX-led effort on wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) to utilities in Southern California. WBE is a valuable tool that can be used to quantify the number of cases of COVID-19, for example, in the aggregate population served by a sewershed. The utilities partnering with the WEX Center and participating in this project include the Sanitation Districts of Los Angeles County, the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, the Irvine Ranch Water District, and the Santa Margarita Water District.

Prof. Jiang is leading a publication summarizing the monitoring campaign for COVID-19.

Investigating flexible WRRF operation to better enable renewable electric grids

The development of low-cost, highly renewable electric grids will depend on harnessing flexibility in different electric loads to better align with renewable generation, including loads from the water treatment infrastructure. Dr. Brian Tarroja leverages modeling of increasingly renewable grid operations to understand how sources of electric load flexibility can better facilitate renewable energy integration. He is currently collaborating with WEX Director Rosso to combine electric grid modeling with dynamic, process-based modeling of water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs) to investigate how these facilities can shift their electric loads to uptake more renewable energy without compromising treatment quality. This research can illuminate practices to both reduce the carbon footprint of WRRFs and also better support renewable energy integration into distribution and transmission grids.   


Research on PFAS lead by Prof. Adeleye

One of the major risks to water sustainability is the presence of emerging contaminants in natural and engineered water systems. Dr. Adeleye’s research encompasses environmental analytical chemistry, environmental nanotechnology, and interactions of environmental contaminants. His current research topics include occurrence and interactions of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and plastic debris; application and implication of nanoscale zerovalent iron (nZVI); and synthesis of novel materials for environmental remediation.

The Water Research Foundation names WEX Center's Associate Director Jiang lead researcher for SARS-CoV-2 study

The Water Research Foundation (WRF) has selected the WEX Center Associate Director Prof. Sunny Jiang as lead researcher for the study Understanding the Factors that Affect the Detection and Variability of SARS-CoV-2 in Wastewater (project 5093). The team lead by Prof. Jiang includes about a dozen between co-investigators (WEX Center Director Prof. Rosso and UCSB's Prof. Trish Holden), graduate students and postdocs, partner utilities, and consultants.

This project, co-founded by the Bill & Melissa Gates Foundation, will investigate how to optimize sampling design in sewers and treatment facilities to quantify aggregate viral counts within communities at different scales.


Prof. Yoonjin Won collaborates with WEX Fellow Abahusayn on atmospheric water harvest

Prof. Yoonjin Won of the UCI Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department has been working with WEX Fellow Dr. Mansur Abahusayn on advanced materials for enhancing water harvest from the atmosphere.  

She has been recognized with the NSF CAREER Award and her work focuses on microscale thermo-fluid phenomena with the development of innovative materials and metrologies to address energy and thermal challenges

Fall 2020

WEX investigation on wastewater treatment in the Andes

The WEX Center Director Diego Rosso (top picture) is working with the inaugural WEX Fellow Daniel Nolasco (middle picture) on the investigation of wastewater treatment in the Andean Region. This work is involving Prof. Andrés Baquero-Rodriguez of the Universidad Militar de Nueva Granada (UMNG) in Colombia (bottom picture). The team is investigating the effects of high elevation on the design and specification of wastewater treatment plants. This topic is timely and important for this region of the world that is undergoing infrastructural development in the water sector. 

Previously, Prof. Baquero has been Visiting Scholar at the WEX Center and has catalyzed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between our institutions.

WEX Center research on COVID-19 led by Prof. Sunny Jiang

Dr. Zhiquan Song working on COVID-19 research in Prof. Sunny Jiang’s laboratory.

May 2020

The OC Register features Prof. Sunny Jiang, WEX Associate Director, for her research on COVID-19 in sewers, in the article titled Poop tests in sewage might predict coronavirus surge 

Significant numbers of COVID-19 patients shed SARS-CoV-2 virus in their feces. The virus was now found in municipal wastewater. Monitoring of municipal wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 can serve as an indicator of the spread of COVID-19 in the community and provide an early warning for the resurgence of the disease.

Researchers at the WEX Center, led by Prof. Sunny Jiang, are developing methods to concentrate and purify SARS-CoV-2 from wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in California and other parts of the county. The samples are analyzed for the presence and concentration of SARS-CoV-2. The viral concentration data are correlated with the reported cases of COVID-19 in the WWTP service area to understand the relationship between fecal shedding rate and wastewater concentration. The positive samples are also sequenced to determine the genetic variability and potential evolution of the virus over time as it spreading among human society.

 Spring 2020

WEX Fellow Dr. Imre Takács teaching carbon and energy footprint modeling using SUMO

This Spring quarter, Dr. Imre Tàkacs joins Prof. Rosso in teaching ENGRCEE164/264 - Carbon and Energy Footprint Modeling of Water.

Course description: Process design for wastewater treatment. Mass- and energy-balance analysis applied to water and wastewater treatment systems. Case studies include analysis of water supply, treatment, reclamation, and reuse.
Dynamita SUMO is the dynamic process simulator used this year in class


Dr. Takács has authored one of the most cited papers in his field, developing the first dynamic model for solid separation in secondary settling. His pioneering work with WEX Fellow Daniel Nolasco lead to the development of dynamic process simulators as they are known today. He opened his company Dynamita in 2010.

Dr. Takács holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Technology from Ghent University and degrees in Environmental Bioengineering from the University of Budapest.

Dr. Imre Takács, CEO of Dynamita was named WEX Fellow in August 2019.


Photo Gallery

April 2020

Science and its Method: a seminar on curiosity and constructive disobedience

CEE Seminar by Prof. Rosso