Water and Climate Stanford researchers are working to meet global water needs.

Mismanagement, growing demand and climate change impacts, such as droughts and floods, strain limited water supplies around the world. Stanford researchers are developing innovative solutions that meet society’s water needs, reduce depletion and reverse environmental damage. Managing safe water sources, protecting water supply and efficient water treatment are three areas of focus.

Managing Safe Water Sources

Globally, 1 in 9 lack access to safe water.

Uganda Rural Water Maintenance

In rural Uganda, most people get drinking water from boreholes with handpumps, but up to 36 percent are broken at any time. This can force people to turn to unsafe or polluted water sources - a top cause of death and disease in Uganda. Stanford researchers are evaluating the demand for a pump maintenance service funded by communities to keep the pumps working and water constantly accessible. The project examines how maintaining infrastructure over the long-term saves money and resources along with the potential for global application in rural areas lacking sustainable, safe-water supplies.

Photo Credit: Axel Fassio/CIFOR

Point-of-Collection Disinfection

More than 500 million people living in urban, low-income areas have piped water service that fails to meet international safety standards. The Stanford-led Lotus Water project is creating safe water delivery with automatic chlorination at the point-of-collection. The affordable and reliable devices provide clean water to over 10,000 people living in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and will soon provide safe water to people in Kenya.

Coastal Adaptation

Saltwater intrusion from rising sea levels threatens groundwater basins and wells. Stanford researchers developed a set of resources to identify coastal planning strategies based on local features in California. Policy briefs, an online mapping tool and data sets are helping local governments manage coastlines while avoiding damage from floods and other climate hazards.

Photo: Flickr/dkhoalee

Protecting Water Supply

By 2025, over 2.8 billion people in 48 countries will face water stress or scarcity.

Water Funds

Water funds allow downstream water users – such as utilities, businesses and communities – to pay people upstream to promote watershed health. Stanford researchers are working with local water fund programs to design appropriate watershed interventions, such as forest restoration and improved farming practices, and guide water fund development through a Water Funds Field Guide and web-based Water Funds Toolbox.

Driving Water Conservation

Water utilities are eager to find new ways of curbing water demand as climate change increases the odds of more severe drought. Stanford researchers created a tool to help water utilities detect shifts in water-use patterns, assess conservation campaigns – such as incentives to remove lawns – and target customers likely to act on them. The method could be used for protecting water supplies in arid regions throughout the world.

Sustainable Groundwater Management

Overpumping groundwater poses a major threat to the availability of a critical resource. States across the Southwest U.S. are addressing the issue through a wide variety of regulations and permitting processes. A new Stanford-created dashboard tool, compares and explains the permitting process of groundwater pumping across these seven states to help resource managers limit groundwater pumping and plan for a more sustainable future.

Efficient Water Treatment

Over 80% of all wastewater is discharged without treatment.

Reimagining Wastewater

When properly managed and treated, wastewater provides a valuable resource for watering and fertilizing crops. A Stanford team is working on a treatment that produces ammonium sulfate fertilizer and potable water from wastewater, using less energy and producing fewer emissions than current practices.

Energy From Seawater

Stanford researchers developed a battery that could make coastal wastewater treatment plants energy-independent. While the technology has the potential to work anywhere fresh and saltwater intermix, energy-intensive wastewater treatment plants offer a particularly valuable target. The technology would cut electricity use and emissions, and makes the facilities immune to blackouts.

Photo: Flickr/Doc Searls

Desalination Solutions

Meagan Mauter, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, directs research for a $100 million project to develop cost-competitive and energy-efficient technologies that desalinate water sources and remove contaminants from industrial wastewater and sewage, among other sources.

Photo: Flickr/David Martínez Vicente


Created with images by Anastasia Taioglou - "Sunrise in Greece" • Patrick Beznoska - "untitled image" • Jeff Ackley - "untitled image" • Clay Banks - "The Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge near the Hoover Dam (1/3) [ IG: @clay.banks ]" • Chang Qing - "Grass on blue lake" • Kseniia Ilinykh - "Watering the lawn" • Daniel Oloruntoba - "untitled image" • Erlend Ekseth - "Pipe by the sea" • Hugo Kruip - "Did you notice the aluminium can in front...?" • Ivan Bandura - "Filtration ponds"