UC Berkeley welcomed students, professors and researchers interested in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to campus May 3, 2019 for the Bay Area WASH Symposium.

Organized by Berkeley Water Center Co-Director/Energy and Resources Group Associate Professor Isha Ray and Associate Dean of Equity and Inclusion, College of Engineering/Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering Kara Nelson, with their doctoral students Yoshika Crider, Soliver Fusi, Adrian Hinkle, Chris Hyun and Jenny Rempel, the event drew over 60 scholars from Aquaya, Stanford, UC Davis, Tufts University, USAID and the California Water Board to come together for a day of presenting research, networking and making research connections in a multi-disciplinary setting to address the needs of water, sanitation and hygiene in California and around the world.

“It’s such a pleasure to gather so many of us together in one room to talk about what we are really passionate about,” says Nelson.

The morning kicked off with keynote speaker Jack Colford, Professor of Epidemiology at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health, who addressed emerging themes for research and WASH investigator training after the WASH Benefits Trials. Colford reviewed two studies on diarrhea prevalence in Bangladesh and Kenya, measuring the benefits of water quality, sanitation, hand washing, and nutritional interventions to improve child health and development. Colford addressed that WASH benefits alone did not improve overall health, though WASH plus nutrition did, and shared lessons learned and next steps.

“We know WASH works in one household, but how do we make it effective in thousands of households?” says Colford.

He also offered career training advice for WASH investigators, including cross-disciplinary training in engineering, public health, epidemiology, big data, personnel, logistics, financial management, grant writing, networking and mentoring.

Presentations throughout the day covered a wide range of topics and disciplines in rural and urban locations in CA, Mexico, Asia, and Africa, including: using insects to clean fecal sludge, addressing intermittent water supply, lead removal, system level chlorination, community level water treatment, machine learning, arsenic removal, sanitation improvements, cross-disciplinary review of sanitation, assessing how much people are willing to pay for sanitation, health risks for resource recovery workers, following disease transmission routes, bacterial contamination in drinking water, institutional drinking water access, handpump maintenance, mapping water quality, and greywater treatment for menstrual health management.

“This was such a great day to see what we are all doing, and really listen to the opportunities in our wider community,” says Ray.

As a student focused event, the symposium included a panel discussion on career paths and experiences in the WASH sector with Rachel Peletz, Director of Programs at Aquaya, Rachel Sklar, Founder, Executive Director of Pit Vidura, William Tarpeh, Assistant Professor at Stanford, and Max Gomberg, Manager at CA State Water Resources Control Board.

A group of presenters also gave one minute pitches on their ideas, looking for collaboration on water nitrates and type II diabetes, reusing laundry wastewater, fertilizer from urine, and WASH services in rural healthcare facilities in Uganda.

“I really enjoy the work I’m doing, but I could really use some help in the public health sector,” says UC Berkeley Environmental Sciences and Biochemistry undergrad Shannon Louie, who presented The implications of degraded water quality on human health: Water nitrates and its role in Type II Diabetes.

See tweets and photos from the day.