Spring Green Expo - April 19, 2018
Spring Green Expo - April 19, 2018

2018 Eco Innovators’ Showcase Winners

Metropolitan Water District held its 11th annual Spring Green Expo on April 19, 2018. The purpose of the event is to raise public awareness of environmental issues and provide information through exhibits, seminars and materials on ways individuals can live and work in a more environmentally friendly manner.

A major highlight of the Expo is the Eco Innovators’ Showcase where Southern California college students can exhibit their sustainability related project work. The exhibits are separated into two categories, Individual and Team, and judged by a panel made up of engineers, architects and water resource specialists.

Winners for the group and individual categories are selected based on impact potential, concept/creativity, cost of implementation, and presentation.

The Expo also features an additional award called the ECO Spirit Award, which is based on passion, vision, collaboration, and altruism.

The 2018 Expo included 27 entries, from colleges and universities, representing Southern California.

The 2018 Winners are:


ECO Spirit Award

ECO Spirit Award Winners
Students: Rees Reiner and Sarah Snyder
Project: Community Collaboration for Water Access
School: Loma Linda University

Description: In collaboration with delegates and communities in Béré, Chad, this project will select wells for improvement and assign them to a category system with three levels according to the required intervention.


Team Category

Team Category 1st Place Winners
1st Place
Students: Xingyu Chen, Michael Khalil, Stephanie Kim, Lawrence Lu, Alexandra Rodriguez, Kristina Rodriguez, Amani Sastry, Brian Sullivan, Ashley Thomas, Jeanette Valencia, Claudia Chaves Villareal
Project: Biogas Costa Rica Network
School: University of California, Riverside

Description: The Engineers Without Borders of University of California, Riverside (EWB-UCR) members will be designing and installing biogas systems and inexpensive microcontroller processors at Pococi by July 2018. The biogas system integrates the anaerobic biodigestion of organic residue from small swine farms and its transformation into biogas and fertilizer for crops. Each biogas system supplies the needs of one family. It consists of three parts: a pigpen of 3x3 provided with water from the well of the property, a tubular PVC biodigester of 5 m long and 1.5 m diameter, and the connections to the stove in the kitchen. In a long term, our goal is to expand the initiative to all of Latin America, helping rural communities to provide sustainable energy and clean air. We believe that having access to clean air and energy is a basic human right. Our society already has the technology to accomplish our goals, so now we must successfully implement it. So far, Stages I and II of the project have been implemented in Costa Rica. With an $80,000 grant of the Interamerican Development Bank (IDB) from the Costa Rica Institute of Technology (TEC), 36 of these systems have been installed in the same community, and 85% are successfully working. In Stage III, the EWB-UCR members plan to install the systems in 17 more farms in Costa Rica by July 2018, by collaborating with TEC and bringing a group of undergraduate students and professional volunteers from Southern California.

Team Category 2nd Place Winners
2nd place
Students: Thania Flores, Jourdan Joyner, Hannah Keife, Taylor Turner
Project: Reducing Ammonia Emissions and Conserving Water Quality
School: University of California, Riverside

Description: Chemical-based scrubbers have been used to remove ammonia from the atmosphere; however, such scrubbers are prone to clogging and require large amounts of water that is not reused or recycled. An improved design is required given the pressing need to reduce ammonia emissions, but also maintain water quality and quantity. A two-phase scrubber has been proposed to maintain functionality by reducing emissions and improves sustainability by allowing water reuse and repurposing of collected ammonia. The two phases are (i) An absorption unit in which ammonia is scrubbed from the intake gas by a clean water sprayer; and (ii) An adsorption unit in which aqueous ammonia is sent through a biochar filter where the ammonia is adsorbed and the clean water is sent back into the first unit. This two-phase design will minimize ammonium salt clogging, and the ammonium saturated biochar can be used as a fertilizer. Most importantly, the two-phase design will allow water to be reused; thus achieving significant advancements in environmental and economic sustainability.

Team Category 3rd Place Winners
3rd place
Students: Laura Mahoney and Nicholas Palomo
Project: Low Cost, Photovoltaic UV Based Drinking Water Treatment System
School: University of California, Davis

Description: The objective of this project is to further develop and test a robust, sustainable, and low cost treatment system specifically intended to meet the drinking water needs of rural communities. For this project, the UCD researchers will collaborate with the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) to adapt a recently-developed compact system for drinking water treatment system to meet specific needs of underserved communities in California’s Central Valley. RCAC will assist the UCD researchers in identifying the main drinking water problems faced by these communities thereby making it possible to adapt the treatment system to specifically address them. The broad objectives will be to develop point-of-use and point-of entry systems to suit the specific conditions that prevail at the water source. By way of clarification: a point-of-entry system is one that would be installed at the entrance of household for the treatment of all water entering the house whereas point-of-use is installed at a single tap or point of water use (i.e. under the sink). It is planned that the systems will incorporate low cost filtration, ultraviolet (UV) disinfection technology, both incorporated in an easy to maintain design. A working model will be tested on the UCD campus to ensure appropriate removal of chemical and biological contaminates to meet California, the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) and EPA drinking water regulations. The model will then be tested in situ to determine ease of use and ease of maintenance for the end users. Once this model is tested, the system will be modified to incorporate solar panels for communities or households that are off the main power grid. Developing a treatment system alongside the community ensures that the system directly addresses their treatment needs, as well as engaging and educating the community in the treatment process.


Individual Category

Individual Category 1st Place Winner
1st Place
Student: Victoria Whitener
Project: Reclaimed Water as a Potential Source of Antibiotic Resistance in Agricultural Soil, Northern Mexico
School: University of California, Los Angeles

Description: This work evaluates the impact of using treated wastewater for agricultural irrigation in Northern Mexico with aims to promote recycled water as a solution to water and food insecurity internationally. For a suite of agricultural field sites, we are conducting experiments at the point of entry and point of use to agricultural irrigation in order to evaluate trends in antibiotic resistant genes (ARGs), fecal indicator bacteria (FIB), integrons, and horizontal gene transfer (HGT). ARGS may be present in the reclaimed water and increase with time in the irrigated soil as a result of HGT, in which case HGT rates are expected to correlate to ARG levels. We will additionally elucidate trends of the above variables in a range of agricultural soils by conducting controlled soil-water microcosm experiments. The perpetuation of ARGs caused from HGT in field samples will be modeled using a heuristic tool. It is expected that some ARGs will proportionally persist in microcosms more than other ARGs respective to their antibiotic classes.

Individual Category 2nd Place Winner
2nd Place
Student: Rae Chye
Project: Amphibia: A Transportable Marine Lab
School: Art Center College of Design

Description: Coral reefs are extremely harmed by human activities and endangered. Every survey done at the site to understand more about coral reef bleaching and sickness requires a great amount of time and energy from the researcher. Using Amphibia as a temporary lab dispatched to locations allows researchers to stay on site, observe closely, and have hands on experiments with the reefs. Having more data will help us better understand coral reefs and help us save them. This transportable marine lab uses bio rock to heal the injured coral reefs. Bio rock reefs have an electrically conductive frame that accelerates growth on coral reefs and increase coral survival. Bio rock can enable coral growth and regrowth even in the presence of environmental stress such as thermal pollution and increasing water temperatures.

Individual Category 3rd Place Winner
3rd Place
Student: Joshua Chang
Project: Ecos Tower
School: OTIS College of Art and Design

Description: Ecos Tower is an architectural feat in green building design. It is a massive seventy story skyscraper that produces its own energy on sight! Massive water filtration turbines spreading 125’ across are incorporated into its design. Located in Long Beach, it filters all the harmful pollutants of smog that overcast the city from lingering cargo ships and container machinery.