Accelerating global water solutions

Students, with community members from Ciudad de Dios, Peru, line pipe trenches with sand to protect the pipes in the water distribution system.

Students, with community members from Ciudad de Dios, Peru, line pipe trenches with sand to protect the pipes in the water distribution system.

More than one billion people drink unsafe water every day, and 40 per cent of the world’s population – a staggering 2.6 billion – lack basic sanitation facilities. Contaminated water sickens thousands of children daily and causes the deaths of 1.8 million people – 90 percent of them children under five – every year. Unsafe water and poor sanitation kill more young children annually than malaria, AIDS and accidents combined.

Although unsafe water traditionally has been a problem in rural areas, the urban slums in which poor people increasingly dwell are now among the most underserved and unsanitary places on earth. The water crisis is growing despite the fact that water and sanitation represent extremely cost-effective public health investments.

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health has played a critical role in developing systems to supply, treat and distribute water, since the university started a sanitary engineering program in the 1920s. Since then, the impact of countless projects conducted by our faculty, students and staff have been felt, literally, from the Neuse River in North Carolina to the Nile River flowing across northern Africa.

The School’s Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, a leader in the field of water and sanitation for more than 50 years, consistently ranks in the top 10 environmental engineering programs in the nation. It is the only such program within a school of public health – bringing the disciplines of health and environmental engineering together under one roof. Our partners include U.S. government agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention international agencies, such as the World Bank and the World Health Organization private industry; and a number of foreign governments.

The water crisis – and the poor hygiene and sanitation that kill millions of children and adults each year – are problems of global proportions. Finding solutions is a defining mission of the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Explore more about how we are improving and protecting the world’s water.