What is Water & Environment Student Talks (WEST)?

The Water and Environment Student Talks Conference, also known as WEST, is an interdisciplinary conference organized by students for students and young professionals whose work relates to the water sphere. The annual event started in 2014, and WEST hosts speakers, panel discussions, workshops, and student presentations over three days every June to highlight current issues and the latest water developments.


The WEST Conference Values are:

  1. Research plays a crucial role in safeguarding our water resources.
  2. Promoting water as a necessarily multidisciplinary collaboration
  3. Introducing new perspectives
  4. Inclusive to water professionals from around British Columbia, the Pacific Northwest, and further
  5. Collaborative learning by students and water professionals


These ideals are the reason for WEST, which provides a platform for students with a diverse array of backgrounds to present their water-themed research.  As emphasized by the WEST brand, the conference focuses on affairs and people from the Pacific Northwest. The Pacific Northwest is a loosely defined region that includes British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and their neighbours. It is a bastion of freshwater and a hub of water research and innovation that serves as the foundation for WEST.

We are proud to recognize the many young professionals, industry representatives, faculty, professors, community leaders, and general water enthusiasts who attend and contribute to WEST.  A considerable effort is undertaken to ensure that delegates and the conference’s content adequately represent a wide selection of water-related topics.  Participating students and professionals have expertise in policy, treatment technologies, hydrology, law, and environmental science etc.


Conference Motto

Host a high-quality conference to exhibit leading water-related research in the west coast and abroad, and to promote interdisciplinary learning for students of all backgrounds.


Conference Details


Usually, the WEST conference is hosted at the University of British Columbia, WEST 2021 and WEST 2022 were virtual.


The WEST conference shall take place annually in the third week of June. The conference will span three days, culminating on a Friday.


The WEST conference is open to all graduate, undergraduate students, and young water professionals working or interested in the fields of Water and the Environment. The conference addresses a variety of water-related topics from treatment technologies, water governance and policy, water resiliency and many topics in between.


The WEST conference will feature the following events:

  • Student paper presentation competition
  • Student academic poster presentation competition
  • Short presentation like a 3-minute thesis
  • Workshops
  • Industry showcases and networking events
  • A banquet dinner on the final night of the conference


Inter-academic collaborations

The WEST conference recognizes the importance of diverse views and opinions and seeks to include a broad representation of participants). This includes both diversity within UBC, as well as the inclusion of student participants from other universities.Universities/Organisations that have been actively involved in the past are:

  • University of British Columbia, Vancouver
  • University of Victoria
  • University of British Columbia, Okanagan
  • UBC Future waters
  • Canadian Water Quality Association (CWQA)
  • Metro Vancouver



WEST seeks to build upon previous years’ successes and to continue to fulfill its primary objectives:

1.  Provide a receptive platform for attendees to share their water-related work
2.  Strengthen connections between students and young professionals working in the Pacific Northwest region
3.  Be welcoming and financially accessible for all students

A goal for WEST is to further diversify delegates and encourage attendees from across all water-related research departments at UBC, as well as from the many academic institutions based in the Pacific Northwest.



The concept of WEST originated in 2013 from a group of graduate students from the University of British Columbia’s Department of Civil Engineering, whose research focused primarily on water treatment issues. They realized, however, that the challenges facing our water resources are vast and complex, requiring more than just technological solutions.  Rather, these challenges can only be solved through the cooperation of experts from the many disciplines involved in the water sphere.  From these grand ideas, it was decided that such collaboration and understanding could be promoted through an interdisciplinary conference that would attract researchers from across the academic community. Thus, the Water and Environment Student Talks (WEST) was born. The WEST acronym was chosen to signify the Pacific Northwest Region, which is home to priceless water systems and a leading community of water experts.

The Canadian Association on Water Quality (CAWQ) shared these ideals and was instrumental in enabling the WEST conference to develop.  CAWQ continues to support the conference by providing the Philip H. Jones Award for best presentation.

By cultivating associations between water researchers and professionals, society can better overcome threats to our water in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.