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 worked with community members from Ciudad de Dios, Peru, to 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 percent 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 — of which 90 percent are children younger than five years of age — 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.

The 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. The impact of countless projects conducted by our faculty, students and staff have spanned 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 as one of the top engineering programs in the nation. It is the only such program within a school of public health that brings the disciplines of health and environmental engineering together under one roof. Our partners include United States government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention international agencies (like the World Bank and the World Health Organization private industry) and a number of foreign governments.

The water crisis, poor hygiene and poor sanitation kill millions of children and adults each year and 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: