Rice University logoGeorge R. Brown School of Engineering
Civil and Environmental Engineering

Undergraduate Minor in Energy & Water Sustainability

waterfallThe Civil and Environmental Engineering Department in collaboration with several other Rice University departments offers undergraduate students the opportunity to select a minor in energy and water sustainability (EWSU). Sustainable development is a societal goal that challenges traditional ways of thinking and requires alternative approaches and solutions to balance environmental, economic, and social interests. Carbon management strategies and renewable resources will be key elements of energy policy for the coming decades. Similarly, the long-term viability of existing water use and human settlement patterns must be reconsidered given the effect of climate change in freshwater availability, as well as increasing competing demands for this limited resource. More generally, the dedication of materials, energy, and ecological resources will become more important in economic decision-making, while more and more members of society will demand equity in decision-making processes.

Students choosing this minor will gain knowledge of both the science and policy issues associated with the evaluation of sustainable energy and water strategies that will form a cornerstone of 21st century social systems. Students completing this minor will be better prepared for a global society that is attempting to understand and address the challenge of meeting basic human needs today and in the future while maintaining a functional natural system and social order.

Program Learning Outcomes for the Interdisciplinary Minor in Energy and Water Sustainability

Students graduating from this program will:

    Apply basic economic concepts applicable to energy and water sustainability including applicable aspects of environmental economics and project-scale economic issues.
    Understand basic environmental issues applicable to energy and water sustainability.
    Conduct evaluations of social aspects from a sustainability prospective.
    Evaluate projects and political systems from the standpoint of energy and water issues as well as more general sustainability issues.
    Apply sustainability concepts at varying scales and viewpoints, including project level, corporate level, and municipal, state, national, and international levels.
    Understand the role of climate change on projects and societies in the future.

Course Requirements for the Interdisciplinary Minor in Energy and Water Sustainability

Students must complete seven courses, comprising of three required core courses, a design practicum and three elective courses that focus on energy, water, or sustainability. To promote educational breadth, no more than two of these electives should be used to meet a student’s major requirements.


    CEVE 302/ENGI 302  Sustainable Design
    CEVE 307/ENST 307/ESCI307  Energy and the Environment
    CEVE 301 Engineering Economics and Project Management or ECON 480/ENST 480  Environmental Economics

Students must choose three electives (at least three credits each), with no more than two drawn from any one of three different defined areas of specialization. No more than two of these electives can be used also to fulfill major requirements, and at least one elective course must be taken from a different school than the one hosting the student’s major. Should students wish to substitute a course for the sustainability area that is not listed, please consult with the EWSU advisor.

Directed Elective: Energy
    ECON 437/ENST 437 Energy Economics  
    ESCI 415 Economic Geology – Petroleum  
    ESCI 417 Petroleum Industry Economics and Management  
    ESCI 550 Modern Exploration Technology  
    SOCI 367/ENST 367 Environmental Sociology          

Directed Elective: Water
    CEVE 314/BIOE 365 Sustainable Water Purification for the Developing World  
    CEVE 412 Hydrology and Water Resources Engineering  
    CEVE 418/ESCI 418 Quantitative Hydrogeology   

Directed Elective: Sustainability
    ARCH 313/ENST 313 Case Studies in Sustainable Design  
    CEVE 406/ENST 406 Introduction to Environmental Law   
    CEVE 492 Modeling and Analysis of Networked Systems  
    CHBE 281/ENST 281 Engineering Sustainable Communities   
    ENST 302/SOCI 304 Environmental Issues: Rice into the Future   
    POLI 331 Environmental Politics and Policy  
    POLI 432 Urban Politics  
    POLI 441/ENST 441 Common Property Resources   
    STAT 485 Environmental Statistics and Decision Making  
Note: Additional courses can be approved as electives with the agreement of the program director

Students are required to enroll in a 1-credit (integrative) independent study for one semester, typically fall of the senior year. Students in engineering and architecture who must take a senior design course will typically fulfill this requirement by preparing a report that describes the incorporation of sustainability concepts into their design effort, in consultation with the senior (capstone) design course instructor. Students not engaged in a suitable design project will either consult with an extant design group or pursue a project related to their own area of study in consultation with the advisors for this interdisciplinary minor.

CEVE 499 Special Topics [ at least 1 credit hour ]
Enrollments and degrees awarded for degree programs in the Engineering School are available at: