ENVR E-171: Water, Health, and Sustainable Development

According to Fortune, water promises to be to the twenty-first century what oil was to the twentieth century: the precious commodity that determines the wealth of nations. And the health of nations as well. This course introduces students to environmental assessment methods of water projects and programs, including health impact assessment, that contribute significantly to health protection and environmental sustainability. The course takes three approaches to the water question. The first, a new sustainable development goal (2015-2030), targets water supply and sanitation (WSS) for all. Lectures identify causes of slow progress in the least developed countries and examine how the lives of 2,000 children lost unnecessarily every day to enteric diseases could be saved. We analyze three contributing risk factors (access to WSS, girls' education and life expectancy, and food security including dietary quality). Case studies are drawn from South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The second approach studies women, watersheds, and the welfare of children, and looks at climate change, persistent drought, and the reclamation of river basins for meeting human needs. We also examine managing the water-energy nexus for population health, with detailed investigation of the future prospects of hydropower as a low carbon source of electricity in rural areas given climate uncertainties, potential biodiversity losses, and peripheral spread of infectious and vector-borne diseases. The third approach involves water planning, technology, and management for healthy cities. The United Nations projects that three-fifths of humanity will live in cities by 2030, and by 2050 one-third may exist in a state of congealed misery in informal urban settlements without suitable aerated housing or affordable water and sanitation facilities. Coastal cities face the further threat of rising sea levels as a direct risk to life and indirect risk to potable water security. Harvard's extensive policy and planning research on China's healthy cities initiative is an important theme for the course. At course end, students apply practical methods that inform prudent investment decisions on water security and safety, and describe evidence-based water planning paradigms that support economic growth, social and health development, and environmental sustainability.
Note: Offered on campus only.


Joseph Michael Hunt







Course ID: 

  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2016-2017 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
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