February 10, 2016 | Simon Jenkins
Leeds research and teaching focuses on the delivery of an effective water supply, sanitation and hygiene services in the global south. We examine ways of helping local governments in less-developed countries to make sensible achievable changes whose effects will be reliable and lasting.
This requires the input of physical sciences and social scientists, health experts and environmentalists. While some universities have expertise in one of these areas, Leeds is distinguished by its ability to pull together the work of a range of disciplines to address these issues.
By combining our expertise in public health, engineering, project management, international aid and professional skills we are able to work with local communities to develop safer, cleaner infrastructure at a local level. We can also ensure it is fit for purpose in this environment, can be maintained locally and is appropriate to the specific needs of the environment and community.
That Leeds is best placed to deliver on the goals of this project is demonstrated by its track record of past achievements:
- In partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation we have pioneered a new approach to analysing sanitation flows in cities and towns. This approach is now the benchmark for basic urban sanitation planning and the Leeds team is rolling this out to 50 cities worldwide, work which is not only changing policy but has also made life safer and easier for many living with unsafe sanitation.
- A DFED project looked at the issues surrounding families who needed to walk long distances daily to bring water to their homes, such as in Vietnam, South Africa and Ghana. The work found that reducing the distance from a 30-minute to a 15-minute walk made virtually no difference to the family’s lifestyle and behaviour, which would only be truly affected by bringing the water supply directly into the house.
- The re-use of untreated waste water for irrigation is essential to secure global food security but poses serious health risks. Leeds research into the effectiveness of waste water treatment in pathogen removal led to the development of quantitative microbial risk analysis. This has enabled governments, regulators and NGOs to assess risks and identify safe and cost-effective re-use strategies. This approach was adopted by the World Health Organization whose policy guidelines have helped many countries to reduce the costs of waste treatment and grow more food safely.
- We are working with Water Aid and Yorkshire Water in five centres in Ethiopia.
This work all draws on significant strengths. Our research group, water@leeds is one of the largest centres of its kind in the world, with more than 150 experts across five faculties working on issues around water security, desertification, droughts and monsoons. water@leeds provides scientific advice to governments, NGOs, businesses, land management bodies and academic partners, working closely with each of them to ensure that research findings are translated into real-world solutions.