Policy, and

We are problem solvers focused on the sustainable management of water for health and human development. We work to improve access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene for all.

News Briefs

Upcoming Conference

The 2014 Water and Health Conference to be held October 13-17 in Chapel Hill, NC, USA, will consider drinking water supply, sanitation, hygiene and water resources in both the developing and developed worlds with emphasis on public health perspectives. The poster presentation and verbal presentation schedules are available on the conference site.

News to Your Inbox

Our newsletter offers up-to-date information about The Water Institute at UNC as well as relevant news briefs from around the globe. The latest issue highlights the call for abstracts for our Nexus 2015: Water, Food, Climate and Energy Conference and the launch of new online distance learning courses. To subscribe to our bimonthly newsletter, please click here.

Technology Contest

On June 9 we launched the Future Technologies for Water Competition to identify breakthrough technologies for safe water with wide-scale applicablity. We received entries from 27 countries. Currently, we’ve narrowed down the entries to 15 semi-finalists. $20,000 will be awarded. The competition is sponsored by the Takata Corporation.

Water Safety Course

The Water Institute is offering a distance learning course on Water Safety Planning, the process of identifying and addressing threats to the acceptability and safety of water supplies. The course is designed for those with management, engineering or operational responsibilities in the water supply industry. For more information, email

Recent Publications

Sustainability Check

Poor sustainability of rural water and sanitation, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, has increased the need for post-construction monitoring and support. To address this issue, the Sustainability Check (SC) was developed as part of the One Million Initiative in Mozambique as an annual audit tool to monitor rural water and sanitation from 2008-2012 to facilitate learning and program changes.‬ Water Institute researchers collaborated with UNICEF Mozambique to describe the SC’s methods, evolution and annual results in the Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development‬.

Global Monitoring

The WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) tracks international drinking water and sanitation coverage by analyzing data from household surveys and national censuses. This article, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, describes and critically reviews the JMP method in detail for the first time. Findings include limitations of the current JMP method and future monitoring needs, including addressing water quality, equity, and the use of multiple drinking water and sanitation facilities within and outside of the home.

Rural vs. Urban Areas

Disparities in access to drinking water between rural and urban areas are compounded by disparities in aspects of water service such as safety and time to collect water. There have been calls for setting higher standards in urban areas which would exacerbate the already extreme rural disadvantage. In Science of the Total Environment, we suggest the focus should be kept on achieving universal access to safe water (primarily in rural areas) while monitoring progress towards higher service levels, including greater water safety (both in rural and urban areas and across economic strata).

Over 1 Billion at Risk

Based on a recent PLOS Medicine systematic review of over 300 studies of fecal indicator bacteria, global and regional estimates were derived. We estimate that 1.1 billion people drink water from sources that are of at least “moderate” risk (> 10 Escherichia coli per 100 ml). Earlier global burden of disease estimates may have substantially understated the disease burden associated with inadequate water services. The results are reported in a series on the global burden of diarrhoeal disease due to water, sanitation and hygiene and published in Tropical Medicine and International Health.

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