press release
Published: 05 November 2021

Sustainability at Surrey: Keeping drinking water safe

A Surrey-based research team helping the World Health Organization (WHO) revise their guidelines for safe drinking water.

Helping the WHO improve its global guidance

Around the world, huge numbers of people rely on small drinking water supplies for this most essential of human needs. It’s not just a third world problem, with parts of the UK reliant on water from private wells or boreholes rather than the large, regulated organisations which manage water regionally.

Dr Kathy Pond and her team at the Centre for Environmental Health and Engineering are examining how these supplies are kept safe, what checks are done on the water and how the resultant data is used. The University of Surrey is a designated WHO Collaborating Centre for the Protection of Drinking Water and Human Health and the team’s findings are being incorporated into the revised WHO guidelines around water quality and health. Surrey has developed films shared by the WHO to help communities using small water supplies to carry out risk assessments to identify potential hazards to the water supply.

Identifying why action isn’t taken

Jo Herschan is a PhD student in Dr Pond’s team and will be attending COP26. She is looking at why, even when water quality checks are conducted, often action isn’t taken based on the data from those checks.

“We see a similar story across the world,” she says, “in England, Canada, Uganda, Gaza. There’s a lack of human and financial resources. Not enough technical expertise. Fragmented data systems. It might be scattered pieces of paper in one country and spreadsheets in another, but the fundamental problem is the same.”

How climate change impacts drinking water supplies

The extreme weather events being caused by climate change, from floods to droughts, pose a significant threat to drinking water supplies. The research team led by Dr Kathy Pond is examining how to protect the resilience of small drinking water supplies in the face of climate change.

Find out more about the Centre for Environmental Health and Engineering.

Watch the risk assessment guidance films developed by the University.

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