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

News Briefs


Water Institute Newsletter #57

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 an innovative waste management scheme in Senegal, keynotes and sponsors for our upcoming Water and Health conference, and the outcomes of our CLTS presentation at World Water Week. To subscribe to our newsletter, please click here.


Best of UNICEF 2015

A study led by The Water Institute at UNC was just named one of the Best of UNICEF Research studies for 2015, based on research that excels at generating knowledge to inform action, shaping policy agendas, and shifting discourse to improve the lives of children everywhere. Only twelve studies were selected by UNICEF for this recognition. “Fecal contamination of drinking-water in low- and middle-income countries: A systematic review and meta-analysis” was selected as a top example of quality research and evidence gathering on children.


Water and Health Conference 2015

The Water Institute at UNC will host the Water and Health Conference: Where Science Meets Policy on October 26-30, 2015 in Chapel Hill, NC, USA.  The Conference considers drinking water supply, sanitation, hygiene and water resources in both the developing and developed worlds with a strong public health emphasis. For details including registration and sponsorship, please visit the Water and Health Conference website.


Launch of WASH Performance Index

On May 8, we recorded a special webcast to launch our WASH Performance Index, a ranking of how well countries are progressing towards universal access to safe water and sanitation. Special guest speakers included Catarina de Albuquerque, vice chair of Sanitation and Water for All (SWA). To view the recorded webcast online, please visit

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Featured Publications

Sanitation Marketing Project  Photo by Jonny CrockerSanitation Marketing Project
Photo by Jonny Crocker

CLTS in Indonesia

Plan International supports Community-led Total Sanitation (CLTS) implementation in a number of sub-districts in Indonesia. This learning brief and underlying country report present the roles of local actors in Plan International’s program activities and highlight considerations for scalability, planning, implementation, and evaluation. Plan International and other sanitation practitioners can support the national government and local actors by placing more responsibility on sub-district staff to lead triggering, enlisting the added support of village facilitators to lead post-triggering, and scaling up village-based financing mechanisms to sustain CLTS outcomes.

Test Borehole in Lavafield  Photo by María GunnarsdóttirTest Borehole in Lavafield
Photo by María Gunnarsdóttir

Chemical Testing in Icelandic Aquifers

Natural background levels (NBLs) of chemicals are useful for identifying drinking water contamination due to human influence. In Hydrology Research, researchers estimated NBLs by sampling from 79 aquifers in Iceland that were largely un-impacted by human activities and categorized them into into four nationally representative geological settings. The results showed little human influence on drinking water and low influence compared to other European aquifers. Water utilities and regulators can use this information to plan for mitigation activities, such as setting more stringent threshold values for NBLs.

Flooding after Hurricane Sandy  Photo by Flickr Creative CommonsFlooding after Hurricane Sandy
Photo by Flickr Creative Commons

Vulnerability to Loss of Drinking Water Access

Extreme weather events can result in loss of access to drinking water. In Climatic Change, we used five different indicator-based models to assess the relative vulnerability of 3,143 U.S. counties to loss of drinking water access due to droughts, floods, and cyclones. One model produced different results to the others, suggesting that model selection affects the results of vulnerability assessment. Identifying counties with the greatest vulnerability to loss of drinking water access provides useful evidence for decision-making on resource allocation and adaptation strategies.

Open Defecation Signage
Photo by Plan InternationalOpen Defecation Signage
Photo by Plan International


In an effort to reduce open defecation, Plan International supports community-led total sanitation (CLTS), a behavior change intervention, in various countries. In this learning brief and country report, we illustrate the roles of local actors and highlight the enabling and constraining factors for successful CLTS implementation in Plan International Laos’ program areas. Plan International and other sanitation practitioners can support government and local actors by strengthening community selection for CLTS, expanding the cadre of CLTS trainers, and advocating for formal recognition of the role of district government in the CLTS process.

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