Sustainability Science Program

Water and Development

Clean Water, Human Health and Sustainable Development

The Water and Development Initiative seeks to identify policy solutions to help meet the pressing safe domestic water challenge that the world faces today. The Millennium Development Goals call for reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water. This goal was adopted in large part because clean water was seen as critical to fighting diarrheal disease, which kills two million children annually. Despite this call to arms however, we know far too little about how to sustainably achieve this goal with the scarce resources that are available. Even where technical solutions are available, not enough is known about how institutions and policies can be designed to promote efficient ake-up and sustained use. The Water and Development Initiative seeks to expand our knowledge base on linked human and natural systems around drinking water and provide an opportunity for productive interaction between policymakers and researchers on clean water issues.

The Water and Development Initiative's activities include:

  • Measuring the health impacts of source water quality improvement, exploring consumers' valuations of these improvements, and examining the impact of alternative property rights and maintenance systems on provision of these improvements.
  • Measuring the impact and identifying ways to increase use or take-up of point-of-use water improvement solutions, in particular treatment with dilute chlorine-based solutions.
  • Evaluating the use, scalability, and sustainability of an innovative water chlorination technology, a chlorine dispenser installed at communal water points. Activities include:
    • Evaluating options for financing and managing the infrastructure over time, including through local governments 
    • Collaborating with NGOs to pilot dispensers in a variety of countries and contexts
    • Working with ministries in Kenya to pilot programs through local institutions, including public schools and health clinics
  • Disseminating results to national governments and international development agencies to encourage adoption of this technology as part of water programs.
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