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Economics students participate in experiential learning at wastewater treatment plant

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Last year Waterloo's Department of Economics launched a new graduate and undergraduate elective course on Water Resources Economics (ECON 484/673). The course was developed and taught by Economics professor and executive director of the Water Institute, Roy Brouwer. Although water is often an applied topic in environmental or resource economics courses, offering water resources economics as a full academic course is relatively new. Given the success of ECON 484/673 in its inaugural year, the course was offered to students again this year by Brouwer.

students touring wastewater treatment plant

“I teach students about the various costs of building and running large-scale infrastructure in the water sector over its entire lifetime,” said Brouwer. “In class I stress the importance of economists collaborating with engineers and scientists to get a full understanding of the entire process from water supply to wastewater treatment, that is, where the water comes from and where it goes.”

Part of the course includes a trip to the Region of Waterloo’s wastewater treatment plant in Kitchener to learn about the construction, operation and maintenance costs of a major wastewater treatment plant, in particular, its recent upgrade, and to learn about anticipated water quality improvements. It also helps illustrate the relevance of the issues discussed in class lectures.

touring wastewater treatment plant

“During our tour of the wastewater treatment plant, the engineers running and managing the treatment plant explain the treatment process to the students,” said Brouwer. “In order to cost and price the water treatment process, economists must understand these processes and work together with engineers and scientists.”

Except for one student from Engineering, none of the other students had visited a wastewater treatment plant before, offering a truly experiential approach to learning.


More photos from the field trip can be found below.

Wastewater treatment plant

touring wastewater treatment plant

touring wastewater treatment plant

students at wastewater treatment plant

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