Global Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

We’re putting scientific, social and policy research to work combatting global sanitation issues and spreading access to safe drinking water.

About

Cluster Coordinator

Francis de los Reyes (Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering)

Cluster Colleges

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Engineering (Lead College), College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Natural Resources

To address water and sanitation issues, new technologies need to be context-sensitive and practical, yet take advantage of developments in energy, environmental processes, materials science, data technologies, design and ecology. Second, advances in public health and environmental research are required in an interconnected world with increasing population and environmental pressures. Third, an enabling environment that includes local and national regulatory frameworks requires new, evidence-based approaches to policy-making. Fourth, scalable solutions require novel business models that are entrepreneurial, socially sensitive and profitable while protecting the environment and public health. Finally, behavioral change would require research on education and culture. A diverse group of scholars will be hired in the Global WasH cluster in the areas of:

  • Science and technology of processes for water and sanitation, sociology/socioecology (social, cultural, religious, political factors affecting behavioral change);
  • Environmental and public health protection (contaminant fate and transport, risk assessment); and
  • WaSH public policy and entrepreneurship.
Open Positions

Impact

Global WaSH will position NC State as a leader in conducting critical research and teaching in water and sanitation issues. The research and teaching will be anchored on community-based projects located in developing countries. The scholarship will reflect the complexities of resource constraints, human aspirations and culture in developing countries. Several factors combine to make Global WaSH a promising and rich area of teaching, research and service excellence for NC State:

  • This ‘wicked’ problem encompasses and requires expertise in several disciplines where we excel.
  • The realization of the scale, magnitude, and complexity of the water and sanitation problem has drawn international agencies and national governments to increase their resolve to face the challenge.
  • The students of today and tomorrow are increasingly aware of, and drawn to, human health, environmental and social justice issues. Students have a strong sense of purpose, and see themselves as positive agents of change in the global community. Service learning and community involvement are recognized strengths of NC State that can attract top students from all over the U.S. and the world.

Global WaSH is an area that directly impacts the public health, quality of life, economics, and human rights of people in under-resourced regions.

  • WHO/UNICEF (2014) Progress on drinking-water and sanitation – 2014 update. World Health Organization. Geneva.
  • WHO (2014) Preventing diarrhoea through better water, sanitation and hygiene. World Health Organization, Geneva.
  • Liu, L et al., WHO; Unicef, Global, regional, and national causes of child mortality: An updated systematic analysis for 2010 with time trends since 2000. Lancet 2012, 379 (9832), 2151−2161.

History

The latest (2012) United Nations data show that a staggering 2.5 billion people across the globe do not have access to adequate sanitation, and 1 billion still practice open defecation. In response to this crisis, the UN set as one of the Millennium Development Goal targets to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation, with 1990 as the base year.

The verdict is now in: the drinking water target was met in 2010, but the sanitation target will not be met. Even with significant progress, billions of people in the poorest regions of the world are still without safe drinking water and adequate sanitation. The international focus is now on adopting the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals related to Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH). The failure to meet the water and sanitation needs of billions, despite the efforts of governments, non-government organizations, and donor agencies, shows the complexity of the WaSH problem. The challenge is not simply scientific and technical: the interwoven impacts of culture, economics and human behavior on science and policy have made water and sanitation among the most complex problems of our society Solutions to this issue require the focus of an interdisciplinary research team.