The university's fledgling Global Water Program wants
to exploit every last drop of Johns
Hopkins expertise on the most basic and vital of Earth's
In the midst of a deepening global water crisis, the
program's steering committee members said
there is no time to waste.
According to the most recent United Nations figures,
water-related problems affect half of
humanity. Roughly 1.1 billion people in developing
countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6
billion lack basic sanitation. Each year, more than 5
million people die from water-related disease, and
less than 1 percent of the world's fresh water is readily
accessible for direct human use.
To help Johns Hopkins become a world leader in
addressing this increasingly crucial issue, the
Office of the Provost has seeded the Global Water Program
with a three-year grant.
The program was one of the 11 inaugural grant winners
out of 74 proposals submitted to the
Framework for the Future's Discovery Working Group. Each
selected initiative will receive start-up
funding of up to $200,000 per year for up to three years.
The university hopes these grants will
ignite new areas and strengthen existing ones where
crossdisciplinary interactions make a major
The Discovery Working Group is one part of Framework
for the Future, a strategic planning
process that Provost Kristina Johnson and President William
R. Brody initiated in May 2008 to engage
the university community in strategizing how Johns Hopkins
will maintain its leadership in research,
discovery, education and practice, while continuing to
positively influence a global society. The other
parts are Ways and Means, and People.
Kellogg Schwab, an associate professor at the Bloomberg School of Public
Health and a Global
Water Program steering committee member, said that the
group's work is just getting under way and
that its members are currently canvassing Johns Hopkins to
discover ongoing water-related projects
and individuals with a strong interest in this area of
study. The group has already brought in faculty
and staff from the schools of Public Health, Engineering and
Studies, and the
Laboratory. And they want more.
"We want to reach out and discover who all the players
are. We're trying to set the stage of
where we are in terms of water-related research and policy
study," said Schwab, director of the
Johns Hopkins Center for Water and Health and a faculty
member in the Bloomberg School's
Department of Environmental Health Sciences. "The
long-range goal is to put together a strong team
that can present new data, research ideas and concepts that
revolve around water. Right now, we're
still in the early stages and considering a host of
Schwab said that an issue as massive as this demands a
crossdisciplinary approach. The group
wants to bring together public health researchers,
biologists, engineers, behaviorists, economists,
policy experts, anthropologists, physicians and others who
can make fundamental changes related to
water access and use on a worldwide scale.
"Water is the core basic need of our society, and
clean water is running out," Schwab said. "We
need to have action."
The Global Water Program will build upon the work of
the Center for Water and Health, which
seeks to integrate researchers from multiple disciplines to
address water-related public health issues.
Schwab's own research focuses on the development of new
approaches for evaluating human microbial
exposure assessment and for investigating the fate and
transport of agents in the environment. His
current water-related research projects include examining
the use of better microbial water-quality
indicators, working on improvements for drinking water and
wastewater treatment processes,
evaluating the impact of human pollution on urban streams
and the Chesapeake Bay that are caused by
aging distribution systems and appraising community-level
and point-of-use water treatment systems
throughout the world.
In addition to Schwab, the program's steering
committee members are William Ball and Seth
Guikema, both from the Whiting School's
of Geography and Environmental Engineering;
Maria Elena Figueroa, deputy director of the Bloomberg
School's Center for
Scott Barrett, director of the Energy, Environment, Science
and Technology Program at SAIS; and
Charles Young, a senior staff scientist at APL.
Guikema said that the new Framework-funded program can
be used to bridge ongoing water-related efforts, help
researchers secure funding and attract students and faculty
institutions. In the near future, the program will develop
workshops, symposia and fellowship
programs. The group is also looking into creating a Web
site that would serve as a clearinghouse for all
JHU water-related initiatives.
"We expect to bring together a diverse group of people
from across JHU, and outside the
university, too," said Guikema, an assistant professor.
"This matter spans a lot of what Johns Hopkins
does, and we are ideally suited to tackle this problem. We
already have a strong foundation. DOGEE
has a long history of water-related work, whether it's
water treatment or distribution systems."
Guikema said that water will increasingly become a
major driver of conflicts and health
concerns around the world. He said that problems have
likely been exacerbated in recent years by
climate change, population growth and resource
SAIS is examining the critical role of water
throughout the world as a special substantive
theme for the 2008-2009 academic year. The "Year of Water"
brings the SAIS community together
to explore global water issues as they relate to economics
and commerce, agriculture, the
environment, new technologies, development and poverty,
security, public health, and conflict and
"Water is one of the main limiting resources for
development in much of the developing world,"
Guikema said. "Water scarcity is a major issue. How do we
help people gain access to drinking water?
Quality is also an issue. There are a host of emerging
containments. We know how to remove some of
them, but how do we do it on a large scale, and in
impoverished areas? These are just some of the
questions we will be looking into."
To find out more about JHU's Global Water Program and
to join the effort, contact Schwab at