Globally, more than 660 million people don’t have safe drinking water, and 2.4 billion lack access to improved sanitation facilities. At the fifth annual Colorado WASH Symposium on March 7 and 8, more than 16 leaders in the industry will gather in Boulder to discuss how they are trying to improve those numbers.
WASH (short for water, sanitation and hygiene) works to solve issues in developing communities that do not have clean water, proper sanitation resources or hygienic practices. The student planning committee encourages anyone interested in the topic—from undergraduates to faculty members—to attend the free event, whether you come for every session or just drop in for a few.
While the organizers are primarily engineers, the conference won’t be strictly technical. This year's themes include social dimensions of WASH, such as changing people’s behaviors; public health programs of WASH; humanitarian and other challenging contexts, such as natural disaster zones and refugee camps; and emerging technologies and instrument innovation.
“It’s definitely a couple of levels up from the technology—there are plenty of forums for that,” said civil engineering PhD student and lead organizer Nick Valcourt. “Each of these speakers brings a multi-dimensional perspective on the issue.”
He said he’s most excited about their three international speakers, including Paul Christian Namphy, the director of Haiti’s Water and Sanitation Authority, who will be speaking about response to the country’s cholera outbreak after Hurricane Matthew.
Four CU Boulder alumni will also be presenting at the symposium: Elizabeth Jordan and Katy Sill, who are both on the staff of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); Christina Barstow, a behavior-change advisor for the Millennium Challenge Corporation; and Evan Thomas, who runs The SWEETLab™ at Portland State University.
The symposium includes three networking events, also, something organizers say sets it apart from other conferences.
“It’s really easy to meet the presenters and grab a cup of coffee,” said environmental engineering PhD student Matthew Bentley. Also new this year is a WASH 101 workshop from 5 to 6 p.m. on Monday, March 6, in the Gallogly Discovery Learning Center, where those new to the topic can get a crash course in the industry and its goals. Free food will be provided.
WASH Symposium is free and open to the public, but registration is requested to attend. The program of events will take place at the Sustainability, Energy and Environment Complex (SEEC) located at 4001 Discovery Drive on CU Boulder's East Campus.
Sponsors of the event include the Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities and the Engineering Excellence Fund.