Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers address developing countries' water and sanitation needs

Worldwide, more than one billion people lack access to an improved water source, such as a rainwater collection or dug well, and two billion still need access to basic sanitation facilities, such as a latrine.

By 2015, the international community hopes to reduce by half the number of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation.

This target for sustainable water and sanitation is just one of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals adopted in September 2000 at the Millennium Summit. These goals serve as the world's time-bound and quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty.

Local communities in the developing world and professional researchers are working to meet this goal. Researchers recently presented their work toward this end at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

In the developed world, the moment a drop of water hits the ground, it goes into the water system until it becomes wastewater. Then it's treated and put it back into the system.

"We have a large-scale infrastructure in the United States to provide clean water," said Joseph Hughes, chair of the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Civil and Environmental Engineering. "Using our current approach will not provide the rapid fix the United Nations is looking for in developing countries. It would take decades."

Hughes outlined four steps in solving the developing world's water and sanitation problems. First, researchers must determine how big the problem is, then analyze the dynamics of water distribution, understand the complexity of the systems required and, finally, create new approaches to water supply and sanitation through research and development. This includes new methods of storing, treating and disinfecting water and developing sanitation systems that minimize pathogen release.

Urbanization, climate changes, water scarcity and economic development will affect where water will be available in the future and where concentrated amounts of water will be required to meet the needs of large populations, Hughes says. The United Nations projects that two-thirds of the world's population will live in areas that face water scarcity by 2025.

"Historically we've tried to go to groundwater sources, such as a well, to initiate improved water sources, but there's a very finite capacity in groundwater," Hughes noted. "We have to work much harder to make ocean or surface waters safe."

The water must be safe and reliable in quality and quantity.

"We need to go beyond providing better water," Hughes added. "We need to provide water that you and I would drink and consider safe. If a pregnant woman drank it, she wouldn't be worried about her health or the baby's health."

International research has been under way for some time to help improve the water supply and sanitation in developing countries. Georgia Tech Professor of Public Policy Susan Cozzens is leading new research, funded by the National Science Foundation, to determine whether these efforts have been effective.

In the United States, the only thing consumers need to know about their water supply is how to pay their bill and call a plumber if there's a leak, said Cozzens, who organized the AAAS session on water and sanitation in developing countries. But a family in a developing country with a latrine needs to know a tremendous amount – how to build the latrine and how to maintain it.

"If a part breaks, what does that family do? Does the family stay in touch with the organization that came and provided the service or part originally? Is there someone who assumes the role of civil engineer in every town?" asked Cozzens, who is also director of the Georgia Tech Technology Policy and Assessment Center.

Cozzens also plans to investigate how communities in developing countries share their knowledge. She will conduct case studies in urban and rural locations in four countries-- Mozambique, South Africa, Costa Rica and Brazil -- to answer these questions.

Cozzens' interest lies in how different places are addressing a lack of safe water and sanitation, and whether engineering, health and social science research plays any role in that.

"There's a research front out there, but we still need to think innovatively about problems with water supply and sanitation in developing countries," Cozzens said. "Even though there's only a little bit of social science (research) literature on water supply and sanitation, about half of it is about developing countries."

Cozzens' goal is to provide insight to international and local water authorities in developing countries on how to set the right conditions for people to learn and solve the problems of unsafe water and sanitation. This insight will come from studying the limitations of research knowledge in relation to this problem and studying communities in the developing world that have solved the problem, she added.

Jane M. Sanders | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Advanced analysis of brain structure shape may track progression to Alzheimer's disease
26.10.2016 | Massachusetts General Hospital

nachricht Indian roadside refuse fires produce toxic rainbow
26.10.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Prototype device for measuring graphene-based electromagnetic radiation created

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Gamma ray camera offers new view on ultra-high energy electrons in plasma

28.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

When fat cells change their colour

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>