Water & International Development

Water & International Development

Program Coordinator:
Dr. Jeffrey Niemann
(970) 491-3517

Water is a critical factor in global public health and economic development. At least 800 million people lack access to safe and accessible drinking water. About 2.6 billion people lack access to improved sanitation systems, and about 1.0 billion people lack access to secure food supplies, which is often related to a lack of adequate water. In many cases, people without access live in rural areas of developing countries, but others live in large and rapidly-growing cities with poor infrastructure. Additionally, an unknown number of people live in circumstances that make them vulnerable to water-related disasters. As population increases, the climate changes, and economic and political conditions fluctuate, maintaining and improving access to safe water supplies, sanitation systems, and food supplies is expected to become increasingly difficult.

Sustainable development of water and wastewater systems in developing countries often requires the use of engineering technologies that differ from those most commonly used in industrialized countries. It requires broader, more multi-disciplinary strategies that integrate considerations of engineering infrastructure, environmental sustainability, and promotion of human health, and it often focuses as much on grass-roots mobilization, education, and capacity building as it does on engineering methods.

The Water and International Development (WAID) track provides civil engineering students with a multi-disciplinary program of study in water development and management and its role in economic development and public health. The program emphasizes integrated approaches (e.g., joint consideration of water, energy, and waste) and sustainability (e.g., long-term watershed and land-use management). Students gain a thorough understanding of water science along with a broad range of appropriate technologies for drinking water treatment and delivery, wastewater reuse and disposal, as well as irrigation and drainage systems. Students also gain an understanding of the economic, sociological, and epidemiological aspects of development projects. The program considers development from the village scale to the global scale, and students in this program can design a plan of study that matches their individual goals and interests.

Students who complete the program can attain either an MS or PhD from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering as well as a certificate in International Development Studies from the Office of International Education. Students can usually earn both the degree and the certificate by taking the same number of classes that are normally required for only a degree. Yet, the curriculum helps ensure that students gain a multi-disciplinary view of development issues.