College of Engineering

102 Bliss Hall, Kingston, RI 02881 USA

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Clean Water: Ensuring access to the most basic human right

Around the world, more than three times the population of the United States lack access to safe drinking water – more than 884 million people in all. More than 2 million people, most of them children, die every year from water-borne illnesses.

Finding a way to provide clean water to the world’s population has vexed world governments for centuries. Now at the University of Rhode Island, researchers are seeking better ways to provide potable water and stop pollution from contaminating water supplies.

“Engineering isn’t about doing research for the sake of doing research,” engineering Associate Professor Vinka Oyanedel-Craver says. “It should be useful and make an impact in people’s lives.”

Craver is researching inexpensive ceramic filters that clean water in remote villages around the world where electricity is scarce and technology limited. In Guatemala alone, she and her students help residents design plants to manufacture the filters. Then they head into homes to teach residents how to use them.

“I want to bring people to a level where they can use the technology we develop,” Craver says.

On some trips, faculty and students from the College of the Environment and Life Sciences join the engineering team. That team, led by geology Professor Thomas Boving, has already helped villages in India, Jordan and Kenya secure clean water sources.

Back on campus, labs such as the Rhode Island Water Resources Center are studying water issues in Rhode Island and undertaking campaigns to raise public awareness of water challenges. The University is also fostering a broad look at these challenges through an initiative to hire a team of new faculty that together touch every facet of water research. Together they have formed the Engineering, Science, Economics, Society Collaborative.

The initiative attracted engineering Assistant Professor Ali Akanda and his expertise in computer modeling of water supplies, floods and droughts. He combines the models with research in water security, climate change and global health to create early warning systems to benefit public health. Originally from Bangladesh, Akanda is passionate about water and climate issues in the developing world.

“For me water is a basic human right,” he says. “If our research can improve the health and living conditions of people’s lives, then we’ve been successful.”

Vinka Oyanedel-Craver
Assistant Professor, civil and environmental engineering
Bliss Hall
1 Lippitt Road
Kingston, RI 02881 USA

Ali Akanda
Assistant Professor, civil and environmental engineering
Bliss Hall
1 Lippitt Road
Kingston, RI 02881 USA

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