Vital for life, critical for economic productivity, and fundamental to environmental processes, water is simultaneously an essential molecule and a resource commodity. Though Earth has immense water stocks, they are unequally distributed and frequently too saline or contaminated for human consumption. Continuing population growth is straining existing water resources and creating local water scarcity, while regions with ample water supplies face new challenges in maintaining water quality. One-third of the world’s population lives in water-stressed regions and, by 2025, this figure is expected to double. Safe water has been termed the “oil of the 21st century,” conveying the magnitude of this emerging global challenge.

Water shortages are being felt in both the developed and the developing worlds. For example, nearly 50% of future US population growth is anticipated to occur in California, Texas and Florida, states that already experience water shortage. The broad human health, political, and environmental consequences of water scarcity have accelerated the reclamation of low quality source waters as potable water supplies. Sustainable water resource engineering at Yale is responding with the development of advanced, inexpensive, and energy efficient treatment technologies for municipal wastewater effluents, seawater, and other compromised source streams.

The challenges faced by developed countries are magnified in the developing world. More than 1.1 billion individuals lack access to clean water and 2.6 billion individuals lack access to sanitation services. In the developing world, exploitation of impaired waters is the norm rather than the exception. Infectious diarrhea causes 2.2 million deaths each year, the majority occurring in children. A multitude of other water-related diseases, including Hookworm and Trachoma, affect hundreds of millions of individuals. Yale’s Environmental Engineering Program is at the forefront of efforts to develop sustainable and culturally appropriate technologies for low quality source water reclamation in the developing world.

Faculty involved with research:

Menachem Elimelech
– ChE & EnvE

Jaehong Kim
– ChE & EnvE

Jordan Peccia
– ChE & EnvE

Julie Zimmerman
– ChE & EnvE
– School of Forestry and Environmental Studies