Water Security as a Foundation for Healthy Communities and Sustainable Livelihoods

Principal investigator: Roy Brouwer

Co-investigators: Susan ElliottCraig Janes, Johanna Wandel

The problem

A sustainable supply of clean water is fundamental for agriculture and food security, the environment and health, and maternal and child health. However, the world is in a global water crisis with close to one billion people without access to safe water and three billion people without access to adequate sanitation. While we often hear about the former, the latter is typically neglected despite the fact that the success of one is clearly dependent upon the success of the other. Climate change has furthermore severe impacts on water supply and sanitation due to increasing levels of severity of droughts and increasing flood risks. North of these threatens the health of communities and the sustainability of livelihoods in low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

The plan

The long-term vision of this project is to support and build the institutional - academic and professional – capacity and enabling environment to facilitate the transition towards healthy communities and sustainable, prosperous livelihoods in these LMICs. This will be achieved by conducting innovative, policy relevant scientific research, employing interdisciplinary approaches to the global challenges outlined above, combining ‘hard’ scientific and engineering solutions and ‘soft’ social sciences focused on awareness raising, behavioural change, sound economics and integrated cross-sectoral policy design and implementation.

In each of the LMICs, innovative interdisciplinary research will be conducted with the local research partners and research placement institutes as knowledge end users, targeting the four QES areas of focus.

The outcome

The main goals of the project are to offer new learning opportunities for doctoral, post-doctoral and early career researchers from five low-to middle-income (LMIC) countries, as well as from Canada, to enrich their academic, professional and cross-cultural experiences in three specific areas: 

  1. Climate smart agricultural systems for food security (India and Pakistan)
  2. Climate-proof public health services under increasingly severe drought and flood conditions (Zambia)
  3. Safe water supply and sanitation facilities to improve the poor health status of mothers and infants (Kenya and Uganda)

Involving young leaders

The University of Waterloo researchers will recruit, train and mentor 27 young leaders (doctoral researchers, post-doctoral fellows and early career researchers), most of whom (70%) are from LMICs. Together, the incoming LMIC scholars will spend 210 months in Canada under the direct supervision of the Canadian professors at UW and MU and research placement advisors in this proposal. A similar supervision system will be applied to the outgoing Canadian scholars in the LMICs, where they will be guided by the local partner institutes and placement organizations.