Access to drinking water and sanitation
The latest update on the global water supply and sanitation coverage (WHO and UNICEF, 2013) confirms that the progress regarding the access to drinking water is on the MDG target (by the end of 2011, 89% of the world population used an improved drinking-water source, and 55% enjoyed the convenience and associated health benefits of a piped supply on premises). However, despite the fact that since 1990 almost 1.9 billion people have gained access to an improved sanitation, the overall progress on sanitation is unsatisfactory as only two thirds of the world population rely on improved sanitation facilities and 15% still continue to defecate in the open.
Explosive population growth, rapid urbanization, rural-urban migration, and densification of urban agglomerations, in combination with the global economic crisis, continuously challenge the global WASH community in provision of innovative and sustainable solutions concerning safe and reliable water supply and sanitation provision.
In response to such a situation and in line with post-2015 agenda and new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), UNESCO-IHE has shaped its research programme on WASH (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene) to address the most acute and relevant issues of the present and the future in developing countries and countries in transition, targeting in particular the urban poor.
The research carried out by UNESCO-IHE WASH community is trans-disciplinary, holistic and applied, and is positioned mainly within an urban and peri-urban context, including centralized and decentralized approaches, advanced and low-cost technologies, and engineered and natural systems.
Beside technical, technological and engineering aspects of WASH, UNESCO-IHE also addresses its societal, economic and institutional aspects in recognition of the fact that technical solutions alone are not guarantee for sustainable provision of WASH services.
With its international and multidisciplinary WASH staff, UNESCO-IHE educates a new generation of modern, ‘all-round’, water supply, sanitary and environmental engineers and scientists, carries out cutting-edge, applied and highly relevant research in a developing context, and provides integrated, innovative and tailor-made advices and practical solutions to end-users world-wide.
UNESCO-IHE carries out multidisciplinary research relevant to the entire water supply and sanitation chain often including experimental work at laboratory, pilot, and field scales as well as mathematical models and decision support systems in both conventional and irregular (emergency) applications. The WASH-related technological research includes, but is not limited to:
- Water transport and distribution (reliability of water distribution networks and water loss management);
- Ground water treatment (adsorptive removal of metals and sensors for water quality monitoring, UNESCO-IHE Family Filter©);
- Natural treatment systems (decentralized / low cost water supply and treatment systems)
- Desalination and membrane related technology (sea/brackish water desalination, wastewater reuse fouling/scaling, zero liquid discharge, modeling);
- Disinfection and advanced oxidation processes (electrochemically activated water disinfection)
- Urban drainage (sewage collection systems, low cost condominial sewerage, rainwater collection systems, urban flooding);
- Conventional and advanced sewage treatment technologies (COD, N and P removal from sewage, conventional treatment, UASB, novel treatment e.g. ANAMMOX, MBR etc);
- Sewage and sludge treatment process modeling (activated sludge and anaerobic digestion processes)
- Resource oriented (decentralized and low cost) sanitation (on-site treatment, urine separation, nutrients recovery);
- Fecal sludge management (collection, de-sludging, transport, treatment, disposal and reuse, in particular in slums and informal settlements);
- Emergency sanitation (emergency kits and technology, Emergency Sanitation Operation System - eSOS©);
- Use of seawater in sanitation (saline and brackish water use for toilet flushing, collection and treatment, SANI© process).