Who We Are
We are problem solvers, focused on the sustainable management of water for health and human development. We work with researchers, practitioners and policymakers towards eliminating global disparities and improving access to water for all. We are based at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Gillings School of Global Public Health, one of the top-ranked public health schools.
News Briefs
Water and Health

Upcoming Conference

The 2014 Water and Health Conference will be held October 13-17 in Chapel Hill, NC, USA. This year’s themes cover a wide range of topics, from Water, Sanitation, and Health (WaSH) in Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals and Addressing Disparities in WaSH: Rural, Peri-urban and Indigenous Populations to WaSH Emergency Response.

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 zero draft of the Sustainable Development Goals and presentations from our first Water Microbiology Conference (pictured above). To subscribe to our newsletter, please click here.

water technology competition

Technology Contest

On June 9 we launched the Future Technologies for Water Competition to identify breakthrough technologies for safe water with wide-scale applicablity. $20,000 will be awarded. The competition is sponsored by the Takata Corporation. Through July 31, we will be accepting entries via the competition website, ftw.waterinstitute.unc.edu.


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 waterinstituteteaching@unc.edu.

Recent Publications

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. 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). The commentary was published in Science of the Total Environment.

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.

Monitoring Quality?

Monitoring water quality is a substantial logistical challenge, particularly in resource-constrained settings. In this study, researchers from The Water Institute collaborated with researchers from Colombia and the UK to quantify this challenge in urban and rural Colombia. The spatial analysis combined data on laboratory locations with detailed census data and demonstrates the difficulties in undertaking laboratory-based microbiological water testing in rural areas. The study was published in Science of the Total Environment.

Preventable Deaths

In a new study, the World Health Organization, along with collaborators from the Water Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and 13 other research institutions, have estimated that 842,000 deaths from diarrheal disease in low- and middle- income countries can be attributed to poor water, sanitation and hygiene. In children under five years of age, 361,000 deaths could be prevented, representing 5.5% of deaths in that age group. The new analysis is reported in Tropical Medicine & International Health.

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