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Emerging Issues


Applying scientific knowledge and global experience to the management of an essential resource

Water has nurtured life in all its forms since life began. Its presence seems eternal. But current trends, including population expansion and climate change, reveal that water occupies a vulnerable place in the planet’s delicate balance.

Nearly 2.1 billion people around the world lack access to safe drinking water in their homes—a factor that increases the risk of disease and death. Sources of water can be unreliable and unpredictable, and in large-scale uses such as industry and power generation, much water goes to waste. Improving the security and functionality of water and sanitation systems not only protects health, it can help stabilize countries and reduce international conflicts.

RTI is involved in multiple efforts to provide people worldwide with the water they need. Our knowledge of water extends from the elemental scale to the global.

Worldwide Capabilities in Water Management and Governance

As leaders in international development, we see firsthand how countries struggle to provide clean water to their people—and how they suffer when these efforts fall short. We help water providers around the world enhance their capabilities by providing sustainable water management solutions, such as forecasting and decision-support tools, to strategically manage dynamic environmental challenges. We also improve service delivery, enhance institutions, reform policy, and strengthen good governance practices to help increase access to basic drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene services in developing countries.

Expertise in the Sustainable Use of Water Resources

The diverse team comprising the RTI Center for Water Resources consists of engineers, hydrologists, economists, and experts in policy, governance, and public health who understand the need to balance competing demands for limited water resources. We provide independent assessments of the risks and benefits of environmental policies on water supply and develop methods for risk-based decision-making in these areas. This approach improves our ability to predict and analyze health and environmental effects.

We are also developing new technologies and processes to provide usable water from previously untapped sources. These cutting-edge processes for desalination and industrial treatment have the potential to reduce costs and turn water that was once considered waste into a valuable resource.

Advanced Scientific Methods for Ensuring Safer Drinking Water

Using precise methods and advanced instrumentation, our analytical scientists can measure extremely low levels of many hazardous substances. The public health crisis in Flint, Michigan, spurred national attention about lead in drinking water, but people all over the world are exposed to many other emerging contaminants. By identifying materials in water with the potential to harm children and the general public, we can work with communities to reduce exposure and protect their health.

Anticipating Future Water Issues and Needs

The world’s need for water, and the forces that threaten the safety and supply of water, will only increase in scope and complexity. Our multidisciplinary teams are prepared to help protect and manage this most precious of resources.