April 21, 2021
Freshwater is one of the world’s most precious resources. For UBC alumnus James Roberts, managing wastewater is also essential to community building worldwide.
“As water stresses increase, treating wastewater at a local, community scale is becoming more of a consideration in urban areas,” says James. “The closer you treat wastewater to its source, the simpler (and more cost effective) it is to reuse.”
James is passionate about the potential for urban wastewater treatment and reuse to revitalize communities, support urban agriculture, and reduce pollution. At UBC, his master’s thesis in civil engineering focused on green technologies to achieve these goals.
Supported by the RBC Foundation, James studied the Solar Aquatics System — an innovative water treatment system that uses sunlight and biological processes to treat wastewater, which had been adapted for use by UBC’s Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS) building.
Now in Hawaii, James Roberts is taking lessons he learned at UBC and applying a local approach to a global problem.
“Hawaii has a very large stock of residential cesspools, used by over 400,000 people, mandated to be replaced by 2050. There’s all these people that need to install alternative onsite wastewater treatment systems,” says James. “One of the reasons I came to Hawaii was to form a company, and we’re applying for National Science Foundation funding to develop a research project. My experience at UBC CIRS gave me a walk-through of the problems that can arise for end users of onsite wastewater treatment, and that’s a fundamental perspective that I need to have.”
The concept of treating wastewater onsite at a community scale — with emerging technologies such as the Solar Aquatics System — makes both environmental and financial sense.
“That’s the fundamental basis behind the design for a building like CIRS,” says James. “It increases the opportunity for reuse.”
Ogechi Anumba: believing in yourself on the journey to help othersLearn more
Niko Andrianos: “You guys are superheroes”Learn more
The Spitz Fellows Program: making the improbable possibleLearn more
Drawing closer to COVID-19 treatment breakthroughsLearn more
Edith Lando: Helping refugee children thriveLearn more
Humbled to become a trusted allyLearn more
New summer law program provides crucial support for Indigenous studentsLearn more
Women’s legal clinic services needed more than everLearn more
How your gifts are supporting research to make the world a better placeLearn more
Someone in their corner: A law student’s dedicationLearn more
Animal welfare – and a cat called MouseLearn more
Project Seahorse: Award-winning marine conservationLearn more
Lina Zdruli: VRefugees, an empathy building toolLearn more
From landlocked to the ocean depths: in search of jellyfishLearn more
To help, as I was helped: From Syria to VancouverLearn more
PODCAST: Jaelem Bhate, conductor & composerLearn more
UBC launches new student wellbeing initiativeLearn more
The piano in the room: A lifeline in the BC Brain Wellness ProgramLearn more
How donors are supporting crucial vaccine researchLearn more
Forestry Field School Fund: Where the forest is the classroomLearn more