Environmental Systems Engineering


Environmental Systems Engineering (ESE) focuses on protecting the health of our water, land and urban systems. Over the past 30 years, the ESE group at the University of British Columbia has been a global leader in the field. In the 1970s and 80s, ESE at UBC was at the forefront of the development of biological phosphorus removal technologies. In the 1990s, ESE at UBC was instrumental in maintaining Canada’s lead in the development of green technologies both in the natural resource sector (e.g. forest industry) and in urban/agricultural water and waste management sectors. Since the start of the millennia, we have continued to be a world leader through the development and commercialization of technologies essential to address emerging environmental challenges, both locally and globally.

Key Areas

  • Recovery of nutrients and energy from wastes (e.g. anaerobic digestion bioreactors, membrane enhanced biological nutrient recovery, phosphorous crystallization, low-energy nitrogen removal)
  • Advanced treatment processes for removal of trace contaminants and pathogens
  • Production of high-quality water (e.g. integrated biological systems, water recovery/cascading/reuse, stormwater treatment, membrane and disinfection technologies)
  • Water and wastewater treatment in low-resource contexts

Media Highlights

Specialization Requirements

Core courses (credits) 13 13 13
Elective courses (min. credits) 17 5 17
Seminar course CIVL 597-003 CIVL 597-003 CIVL 597-003
Thesis course N/A CIVL 599 CIVL 699

Core course requirements

The following courses CIVL 562 and 597-003 as listed below, plus three (3) of CIVL 541, 565 (Not offered 2023W), 566, 569 (Not offered 2023W), 598Q (Not offered 2023W), 598W, 598X (Not offered 2023W), or CHBE 575.

Elective requirements

Electives may be taken from the list of Approved Electives below, or other electives may be taken with the approval of the Specialty Advisor / Supervisor. Note that no more than 2 electives that are outside the general subject area of Environmental Systems Engineering can be considered for degree requirements.

Undergraduate students who are interested in Environmental Systems Engineering are directed to the following courses:

  • CIVL 406
  • CHBE 364
  • CHBE 485

Graduate Courses

Core Courses – Graduate NameCredits  Term
CIVL 562Environmental Data Collection and Analysis31
CIVL 597-003Graduate Seminar (Environmental)11 & 2
Plus three of CIVL 541, 1,2565, 566, 1,2569, 1,2598Q, 598W, 1,2598X, or CHBE 575 (see below)Various31&2
 Total core-course credits:13
Approved Graduate Elective CoursesNameCredits Term
CIVL 519Risk and Decision Analysis for Infrastructure Management31
CIVL 523Project Management for Engineers32
CIVL 524Legal Aspects of Project and Construction Mgmt31
2,3CIVL 541Environmental Fluid Mechanics32
CIVL 561Risk and Remediation in Geo-environment32
1CIVL 564Engineering Management of Solid Waste3N/A1
1,2CIVL 565Physical-Chemical Treatment Processes3N/A
2CIVL 566Fate of Contaminants in Aquatic Systems32
1,2CIVL 569Environmental Biotechnology3N/A
1,2CIVL 598Q Environmental Microbiology for Engineers3N/A
2CIVL 598WWater and Sanitation in Low Resource Contexts31
2CIVL 598XLow Pressure Membrane Systems 3N/A1
CHBE 551Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics32
2CHBE 575Air Pollution Control31
CHBE 577Electrochemical Science, Engineering, and Technology32
CHBE 583Energy Engineering31
CHEM 517Electrochemistry31
IWME 504Water and Wastewater Management Strategies31
MICB 505Molecular Microbiology31
Approved Undergraduate ElectivesNameCreditsTerm
CIVL 416Environmental Hydraulics31
CHEM 406Polymer Chemistry31
MICB 401Environmental Microbiology Laboratory31
MICB 405Bioinformatics31
MICB 425Microbial Ecological Genomics32

1N/A – Not Offered in 2023/24.

2Three of these courses must be taken as part of the core course requirement.

3It is expected that students have a strong fluid mechanics background. It is recommended that students have taken CIVL 416 or equivalent.


To learn more about Environmental Systems Engineering at UBC, please contact Dr. Pierre Bérubé.



Our Environmental Research Laboratories include modern analytical instrumentation, including atomic absorption and gas chromatography, and are currently being upgraded with advanced mass spectrometry instrumentation (e.g., ICP-MS, LC-MS/MS). For wastewater and sludge management, we have two fully instrumented 16-meter trailers. UBC is also a partner with the Annacis Island Wastewater Centre. Learn more.