Water and Health Working Group


This working group on water and health aims at better collaboration and coordination between sub-sectors on water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and integrated water resources management (IWRM) for increased impact: improved services, improved sustainability and, above all, improved health. Our group offers a broad international perspective and new modalities by i) connecting researchers across the various water disciplines and the health sector, and ii) reaching out to policymakers and practitioners in capacity building, implementation and businesses within the water and health sectors.


The following activities have been formulated for 2018-2019, subject to funding:

  • Publication of a position paper on the wider context of WASH, identifying research gaps on integrated water management, sustainable solutions and scale.
  • Enable meaningful high-level dialogue between WASH and other (sub) sectors working on the achievement of SDG 6, SDG3 and other SDGs where relevant.
  • Proposal development for concrete implementation with local partners aimed at achieving the whole of SDG 6, with impacts on SDG3.


  • Co-Chair: Barbara Evans – University of Leeds, UK
  • Co-Chair: Eline Boelee – Deltares, the Netherlands
  • Jamie Bartram – University of North Carolina, USA
  • Mark Pascoe – International Water Centre, Australia
  • Nirmala Ronnie – Unilever, India
  • Patrick Moriarty – IRC, the Netherlands


Providing effective and lasting water supply and sanitation services that support human health requires an integrated approach that looks within and beyond the broad water sector. Within the water sector, consumptive and non-consumptive uses of water both draw from and pollute freshwater resources. Efforts in water supply, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) often remain isolated from those of other water sub-sectors despite generations of advocacy for a more joined-up approach under integrated water resources management (IWRM). Linkages between WASH and other water sub-sectors (a systems perspective) are essential to increase sustainability as well as development impact; targeting SDG6 in its entirety. Declining water quantity and quality is a growing concern especially in the underdeveloped world with increasing human population; industrial and agricultural expansion; urbanization; and climate-related risks. All of these have an actual or potential impact on how much water is available, when, and with what quality. Adding to this is the poor waste management infrastructure, which overloads freshwater bodies. Inadequate management at aquifer or river basin level leads to larger issues downstream, often making the water body unsuitable for water withdrawals or requiring exhaustive treatment to make it usable. There is a need to think about circular models to inform policy decisions. Water systems at different levels are frequently looked at in isolation and there is a need to bring in a circular and life-cycle approach to their management. Wider ecosystem and health linkages (EcoHealth and One Health) need to be included, as environmental sustainability is crucial in achieving health targets through the improved water supply, sanitation and hygiene. Ecosystem health not only has a direct impact on water availability and quality, it also influences resilience and planetary security. Better connections with other sectors will help to increase the impact of water and sanitation on health and food production, thereby addressing targets in SDGs 3, 2 and 12 as well. By strengthening the linkages to other water sub-sectors and facilitating outreach to public health, our group aims at increasing globally the impact of the WASH sector: delivery of services for sustainable safe drinking water, safe and sustainable sanitation, improved hygiene, and through these achievements of better health.

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