About Us

The mission of The Water Institute at UNC is to provide global academic leadership for economically, environmentally, socially, and technically sustainable management of water, sanitation, and hygiene for equitable health and human development. We aim to be a vibrant, interdisciplinary center that unites faculty, students, and partners from North Carolina and from across high- and low-income nations worldwide.]

Our goal is to drive effective policy, programming, and practice in water, sanitation, and hygiene that protects and improves human health and wellbeing worldwide and that predicts and prevents emerging risks.

The Water Institute’s activities are centered on focus areas, selected to represent important but under-addressed challenges, and justified by problem definition, opportunity characterization, and impact potential. We respond to each with activities from our four functions: research, teaching, networking, and knowledge management. While our focus areas are flexible and evolve in response to emerging needs, functions provide a stable framework for action.

Our People

The Institute is led by Director Dr. Jamie Bartram, former head of Water and Sanitation at the World Health Organization. In addition, we have affiliated faculty, postdoctoral researchers, research and communications staff, and an impressive graduate student cohort. With support from UNC’s Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and the Office of Sponsored Research, we have accounting, operational controls and technical expertise to carry out multi-year, complex projects. Through all of our endeavors, we work towards eliminating global disparities and improving access to safe water for all.

Our Four Strategic Functions

Our strategic plan focuses on four key functions to provide global academic leadership in water, health and development, using science to inform good practices and appropriate policy. For more information, please see our three year review . strategic_functions


Through research, we tackle knowledge gaps that impede effective action, respond to the information needs of our partners and act early on emerging issues. Having published more than 60 scientific papers in our first four years, our research contributes to evidence-based decisions in the scientific, policy and practitioner communities domestically and internationally. From 2010-2014, we received 51 funded grants and awards from 37 different awarding bodies, ranging from $1,500 to $1.5 million, to a total value of $5.69 million.

Teaching and Learning

Based at one of the top research universities in the country, the Water Institute has international teaching and learning partnerships. We use innovative distance learning programs and hands-on learning to help fill the global need for relevant, accessible training for WaSH professionals. Our 20 affiliated students, as well as distance learning course participants, benefit from the comparative advantage in the multidisciplinary knowledge base and expertise of Water Institute faculty, staff, fellow students and collaborators.

Knowledge Management

We aim to exercise thought leadership to support effective policy-making that protects and improves human health worldwide and predicts and prevents emerging risks. We provide accessible and actionable information for policymakers and practitioners and advance dialogue through a range of channels, including scholarly publications, briefing notes, invited presentations, virtual learning opportunities, cutting edge workshops, and the Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development, co-published with the International Water Association.

Networking and Partnership

We bring together individuals and institutions from diverse disciplines and sectors, enabling them to work together to find solutions. In four years, our annual Water and Health Conference has become an important meeting place for international water, health and development thought-leaders, attracting 500 participants from 50 countries. In 2014, we added a new conference on Water Microbiology. We also provide communications support to the WHO and UNICEF International Network on Household Water Treatment and Safe Storage.