In the early twentieth century, Professor Herman G. Baity (pictured above) was a pioneer, developing systems and influencing policies that brought clean water to people across the US and the world. His leadership as Dean of Engineering at UNC helped keep the Sanitary Engineering program in Chapel Hill, even after other engineering programs were moved to what is now North Carolina State University. Baity left UNC to become the first head of environmental health at the World Health Organization (WHO).
From the mid-1950s, initially under the leadership of Daniel Okun, UNC became known worldwide for its work in water supply and management, pollution control, water reclamation and reuse, and watershed protection. UNC is renowned for its comprehensive approach to water issues, including strengths in aquatic biology, drinking water chemistry and treatment, wastewater and sludge treatment, groundwater protection, and water resource policy, with applications at the local, state, national, and international levels.
Recognizing that progress toward equal access to safe, healthy water will foretell the future development, safety, and prosperity of every country, UNC recruited Jamie Bartram, then head of Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Health at the World Health Organization, to lead a new multidisciplinary effort. The Water Institute at UNC was launched in October 2010 at the first Water and Health Conference. The conference has since emerged as one of the most important gatherings worldwide for both established leaders and enterprising newcomers in water, health, and development. This signature event provides a platform to share research findings that can inform future policy.
Since its founding, The Water Institute has tackled ongoing and emerging issues of central importance to global public health with a commitment to improve policy, programming, and practice. Institute researchers have published numerous scientific papers and reached large audiences with knowledge products that translate insights into practical action. The Institute’s recommendations on global WaSH goals, targets, and indicators have supported policymaking and helped shape agendas around water supply and quality, sanitation and sewerage, environmental health in health care and school settings, and human rights.
Continuing a tradition of excellence
Under the direction of the current Director, Aaron Salzberg, the Water Institute continues the tradition of excellence in WASH science, implementation and policy by ensuring the Water Institute is:
- Globally recognized as a world-leader in providing real-world solutions to the most pressing water and sanitation challenges
- A locus of learning, technical innovation, and entrepreneurship that is producing the next set of policy-leaders, practitioners, and researchers
- Improving the lives of the people of North Carolina and beyond by working to promote a more water-secure future