Water and Health in China and Beyond

Professors Isha Ray and David Sedlak, co-directors of the Berkeley Water Center, worked with the International & Executive Programs (IEP) to co-host the September 3rd “Water and Health in China and Beyond” conference at the University of California Berkeley’s Faculty Club.

This conference brought scholars and researchers from Berkeley together with delegates and researchers from China’s National Center for Rural Water Supply Technical Guidance (NCRWSTG) and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (China CDC). In his opening remarks at the start of the conference, J. Keith Gilless, Dean of College of Natural Resources, observed that the event represented “...a global alliance of academic and public sector collaborators meeting together to improve human and environmental health.”

Berkeley Professors Jack Colford and Kirk Smith from the School of Public Health, Kara Nelson from Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Ashok Gadgil from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, were among the distinguished conference speakers. Conference speakers and members of the public also eng aged with the China CDC delegates directly during an hour long Q&A panel discussion hosted by Professor You-tien Hsing as well as during a conference lunch.

Alasdair Cohen, from Berkeley’s Department of Environment Science, Policy and Management, was a key member in bringing the Berkeley and China researchers together and organizing the conference. In 2012, Cohen created a research collaboration with the China CDC to conduct his PhD research on drinking water treatment in rural China. In a recent article published in Our Environment at Berkeley, Cohen was quoted as saying: “Considering that approximately 600 million rural Chinese drink boiled water, and as many as 300 million don’t have safe drinking water, it’s really surprising how little we know about household water treatment there.”

As timing would have it, just one week before the conference the first known research study on household water treatment in China was published in the renowned journal PLoS ONE, authored by Cohen and his NCRWSTG and China CDC colleagues as well as Berkeley Professors Jeff Romm, Jack Colford, and Isha Ray. Through this breakthrough research, Cohen has begun to bridge the knowledge gap on household water treatment in China and to provide valuable policy solutions for delivering safe water using environmentally sound methods.

Professors Isha Ray, Jack Colford, and others at Berkeley hope to build off of this successful research as well as the highly productive conference to establish a long-term research collaboration between Berkeley and the NCRWSTG and China CDC. Following the conference, Tao Yong, director of the NCRWSTG, invited these Berkeley faculty to come to China in 2016 for a week-long visit and conference at their headquarters in Beijing.

Funding for the conference was provided by the Berkeley School of Public Health, the Center for Chinese Studies, Institute of East Asian Studies, and the Fudan-UC Center. IEP is a part of UC Berkeley’s College of Natural Resources, and was founded to provide leaders the tools necessary to address environmental and natural resource challenges.  IEP has specialized programs designed for professionals to stimulate discussion on topics related to the work of the College of Natural Resources.