Newsletter: February 19, 2015, Issue #51



Global WaSH News

UN-Water Analytical Brief on Wastewater Management

UN-Water recently issued an analytical brief highlighting wastewater management as a critical step in improving global water quality and public health. The report recognizes the emerging consensus that wastewater merits specific consideration in the post-2015 development agenda. UN-Water listed wastewater pollution and water quality as one of five target areas recommended for post-2015, while the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) proposed a specific target for wastewater management.

WHO Report: Preventing Diarrhea Through Better Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene

The World Health Organization released a report on the global burden of diarrheal disease showing a reduction in the number of deaths of children under five years old from 1.5 million in 1990 to 622,000 in 2012. Of these, 361,000 could be prevented with improved water, sanitation, and hygiene. Achieving universal access is an essential first step. The findings are based, in part, on collaborative research undertaken by WHO, The Water Institute at UNC, and 13 other institutions. In addition, raising the quality of service levels through Water Safety Plans, household water treatment and safe storage, and well-managed sanitation systems is expected to yield substantial additional improvements in health.

Conference News

Call for abstracts extended: Water Microbiology Conference 2015

We are extending the deadline for abstracts and side event proposals for our Water Microbiology Conference 2015 to February 25. The Conference will be held May 18-22 in Chapel Hill, NC, USA. This year’s themes are:

  • Source & Resevoirs
  • Exposure
  • Methods
  • Management & Treatment

Details on themes can be found on the conference website. Abstracts and proposals must be submitted by February 25 and should relate to one of this year’s themes. Dr. Ronald Atlas, a leading voice of the One Health approach, will give a keynote address at this year’s Conference. Dr. Atlas is a professor of biology at the University of Louisville and a fellow in the American Academy of Microbiology. He has served as president of the American Society for Microbiology and now serves as the chair of its Public and Scientific Affairs Board.

2015 Water and Health Conference

We are accepting abstracts and side event proposals for the 2015 Water & Health Conference: Where Science Meets Policy. The deadline for proposal submissions is April 24. Abstracts and side event proposals should relate to one of this year’s themes:

  • WaSH for the future: SDGs, innovation, resources, integration, and urbanization
  • Hygiene and behavior
  • WaSH in emergencies and outbreaks
  • Learning from practice: MEL, action research, case studies
  • Water supply and quality
  • Sanitation: Protecting households, communities, and environment

Scholarships will be awarded to authors who have the top scoring papers from low- and middle-income countries.

Water Institute News

The Water Institute at UNC seeking web developer

The Water Institute at UNC is hiring a web developer to support its web-based communications activities. This person will work closely with the communications team to ensure that its web presence effectively conveys its brand. The web developer will be responsible for working with the team to integrate external sites into our primary site and maintaining the primary site, including translating informational or marketing content into a functional website design.

WaSH in Health Care Facilities- Urgent Needs and Action

The Water Institute at UNC is partnering with WHO and UNICEF to host an international meeting, Water, sanitation and hygiene in health care facilities- urgent needs and action. Participants in the two-day meeting will address the latest global situation on WaSH in health care facilities and discuss key actions to strengthen policies, monitoring, implementation, and advocacy. Participants will also revise and finalize an action plan and develop a position statement detailing how WHO, Member States, and other stakeholders can work collaboratively to improve WaSH in health care facilities. A link to proceedings from the meeting will be shared in a later issue of this newsletter and on our website at

Recent Publications on WaSH from UNC Researchers

Pearl, Hans W., Nathan S. Hall, Benjamin L. Peierls, and Karen L. Rossignol. Evolving Paradigms and Challenges in Estuarine and Coastal Eutrophication Dynamics in a Culturally and Climatically Stressed World. Estuaries and Coasts 37 (2014): 243-258. doi:10.1007/s12237-014-9773-x

Coastal watersheds support more than one half of the world’s human population and are experiencing urban, agricultural, and industrial expansion. In addressing nutrient input reductions to reverse eutrophication, phosphorus has received priority attention in upstream freshwater regions and nitrogen has been the focus of management strategies in estuarine and coastal waters. Efforts aimed at stemming estuarine and coastal eutrophication in these systems should establish nitrogen and phosphorus input thresholds that consider hydrologic variability so that eutrophication and harmful algal blooms can be controlled over various climate change scenarios.

Luh, Jeanne, Rachel Baum, and Jamie Bartram. Equity in Water and Sanitation: Developing an Index to Measure Progressive Realization of the Human Right. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health 216 (2013): 662-671. doi:10.1016/j.ijheh.2012.12.007

Monitoring inequality in water and sanitation is essential as the human right to both is now officially recognized. The preferred metric would focus on the rate of change, but this is not yet utilized. Researchers developed an equity index, published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health, to measure progressive realization of the human right and fairly compare countries progress toward universal access by normalizing rates of change against a benchmark. Using this index, this study demonstrates that progressive realization can be achieved regardless of state economic status, development progress, or related factors.

Baum, Rachel, Jeanne Luh, and Jamie Bartram. Sanitation: A Global Estimate of Sewerage Connections Without Treatment and the Resulting Impact on MDG ProgressEnvironmental Science & Technology 47 (2013): 1994-2000. doi:10.1021/es304284f.

The Joint Monitoring Programme definition of improved sanitation does not account for sewage treatment. The research team developed an empirical model to reassess the water and Millennium Development Goal sanitation target. The study shows that 1.5 billion people use sewage connections without treatment, highlighting the need to include sewage treatment as an indicator in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals to account for public health and environmental protection in assessing sanitation.

Whittington, Dale, Celine Nauges, David Fuente, and Xun Wu. A Diagnostic Tool for Estimating the Incidence of Subsidies Delivered by Water Utilities in Low- and Medium-Income Countries, with Illustrative Simulations. Utilities Policy In Press (2015). doi:10.1016/j.jup.2014.12.007

This study provides a diagnostic tool that water utilities may use to estimate subsidy distribution to households in different income quintiles. This comparison allows a utility to evaluate whether subsidies are targeting poor households in certain service areas. Simulations conducted in this study show that subsidies delivered through common tariff structures are not well targeted to poor households. Results also show that the higher the correlation between household income and water use, the lower the proportion of total subsidies that are received by poor households.


Campus WaSH News: Water in Our World

UNC-Chapel Hill receives large public health innovation grant

UNC-Chapel Hill’s Institute of Marine Sciences and partner institution UNC-Charlotte are recipients of a $684,805 grant to develop rapid molecular diagnostics to quantify viruses and pathogens in marine waters and seafood. This research aims to develop user-friendly diagnostic kits for rapid determination of dangerous bacteria and viruses in marine water and seafood. It will position North Carolina as a leader in rapid molecular diagnostics for its economically valuable marine waters, shellfish, and aquaculture sectors.

Lecture: Will the Environment Survive a Middle-East Peace Process?

UNC Hillel will present Dr. Alon Tal, an UNC alumnus and founder of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies for this talk on Sunday, February 22 at 12 noon in room 105 of Gardner Hall on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus. Dr. Tal is a professor in the Department of Desert Ecology at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

The Ups and Downs of Environmental Finance with Jeff Hughes

Jeff Hughes, Director of the Environmental Finance Center at UNC, discusses environmental finance and creative water rate designs on this Water Values podcast.

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