Why Water and Sanitation Matter

The world is in the throes of an unprecedented water crisis. Only half of the world’s households have water at home. Unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation and hygiene cause an estimated 1.8 million preventable deaths a year, mainly in children. Globally, we know that no other single intervention is likely to reduce world poverty more than the provision of safe water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH). In the United States and other industrialized nations, water scarcity and an aging water and sanitation infrastructure are of increasing concern. Water is a linchpin of public health in the 21st century and the Gillings School of Global Public Health has made an extraordinary commitment to finding solutions to the water and sanitation crisis.


Current Research

At the Gillings School, our researchers are globally recognized for our capacity to identify water-related public health risks and analyze the effectiveness of interventions to prevent waterborne diseases. We provide models and guidance in water safety planning to prevent contamination and protect drinking water from the challenges of severe weather events.  We are leaders in water resource management and sanitation solutions in both industrialized and developing nations, including drinking water and wastewater treatment and remediation of contaminated soil and groundwater.

Building on the school’s 50+ years of leadership in the field, the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health has taken its investment in water and sanitation solutions to a new level by creating The Water Institute at UNC. The Water Institute hosts an annual Water and Health Conference and co-publishes the Journal of Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene for Development in partnership with the International Water Association.

Additionally, in 2017, the Center on Financial Risk in Environment Systems was launched as a partnership between the UNC Gillings Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and the UNC Institute for the Environment.

Additional Research in the Field of Water and Sanitation

Groundbreaking study creates global estimates of environmental safety challenges in health-care facilities

UNC Gillings School, RTI International to test for lead in drinking water at 300 Wake County households with young children

Characklis and team awarded $2.5M NSF grant to study flood, drought conditions in Oregon

UNC launches innovative Center on Financial Risk in Environmental Systems

Commentary calls for protecting public health by improving resiliency of water services

Aquagenx compartment bag tests used for water quality monitoring in rural Myanmar

Water Institute at UNC designated as PAHO/WHO Collaborating Center for Water and Sanitation

Reducing ER visits for acute gastrointestinal illnesses in NC by extending community water service

Professor Mark Sobsey receives NWRI Athalie Richardson Irvine Clarke Prize for excellence in water research


Highlighted Leaders in the Field