About Us

The goal of the Water Institute at UNC is to create a more water secure world through research, policy, and practice. From our perspective, action without evidence is wasting money; evidence without action is wasting time. To reach the SDG targets we can afford neither. Our job is to provide the evidence, the tools, and the next generation of leaders to change the way the world works on water.

To do this, we take an interdisciplinary and partnership-driven approach towards identifying and solving the world’s most pressing water and sanitation challenges. We work through a four-step process:

  1. Demonstrating salience. “Why” is the problem relevant. I.e., what is the impact on human health, economic growth, and/or peace and security and how do these compare to other risks.
  2. Identifying solutions. “What” can we do to address the problem. Developing solutions that are effective, efficient, and scalable.
  3. Promoting effective implementation. It’s not just the “why” and the “what”, but the “how” – how do we implement the solutions we’ve identified where the problems exist. Not in the laboratory but in the field. How do we monitor, evaluate, and reflect to ensure the solutions we’ve identified deliver the intended results.
  4. Scaling up through advocacy and policy reform. Getting others at the local, national and international level to adopt policies that protect public health, promote sound water management, and prevent potential conflicts over water.

The core staff of the Water Institute includes senior level policy makers and scientists with a proven record of excellence. Institute staff have advocated strongly for national and global policy reforms through the UN system and other international bodies. As an official WHO Collaborating Center, the Water Institute has worked closely to develop standards and guidelines across a range of issues related to drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene. Staff have also worked closely with the WMO, UNEP, UNESCO, the UNECE, and the African Minister’s Council on Water. Across the UNC campus, we have more than 30 faculty and well over 100 researchers dedicated to water and sanitation issues.

The Water Institute is a leader in the WaSH community. The Institute hosts the largest annual international conference on water – the “Water and Health Conference: Research, Policy and Practice.” In 2019, this conference attracted over 600 water, sanitation and hygiene sector participants from more than 50 countries; participants included national level policymakers, multilateral organizations such as WHO, implementing partners, and researchers. The Conference not only informs our research but is a platform for building international consensus around emerging ideas and approaches and for shaping the efforts of the sector.

Management Capacity: With over $2 billion administered annually in grants and contracts, UNC has organizational experience, accounting, operational controls, and technical expertise to carry out complex projects in multiple countries. In addition to the Water Institute’s own administrative personnel, we benefit from the thorough financial, administrative, and management systems of UNC. With their support, the Water Institute has managed more than 100 projects and grants funded by more than 46 donors for a total value exceeding $15 million, each ranging from $15,000 to $2 million.