Project Regions Southeast Asia
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Wastewater & Coastal Environmental Health in the Philippines

This research collaboration between colleagues at the University of California Berkeley (UCB) and the University of the Philippines (UPD) was designed to advance methods for measuring, modelling, and assessing marine water quality and environmental health at three sites in the Philippines. One of the three study sites for this multi-year project is Boracay Island. A popular tourist destination, in recent years sewage and other contaminants have adversely impacted Boracay’s beaches and coastal water quality, with implications for both environmental and human health. This research project centers on the use of an autonomous surface vessel to collect a wide range of spatially referenced data which can be combined with data from water samples and lab-based analyses, as well as satellite and other remote sensed data. At the Boracay site, proxy sensor data (e.g., optical brighteners and tryptophan) and laboratory analyses of grab samples will be combined to map and model actual and estimated water quality and environmental health impacts from point and non-point runoff and wastewater effluent. Our planned research activities and associated timelines suffered from a variety of logistical setbacks and delays, but we are now working under a no-cost extension to complete our primary research objectives for Boracay, as well as the other research sites (Bolinao and Tubbataha).

Bottled Water Safety & Use in Low- & Middle-Income Countries

In the course of our work studying drinking water access, contamination, and treatment in rural areas, we have observed relatively high rates of bottled water use. The reasons for increasing bottled water use in rural areas of low- and middle-income countries are varied, but available data indicates that some of the primary reasons are related to perceptions that bottled water is convenient and safer than available drinking water sources. Results from some of our research studies suggest, however, that bottled water may not always be safe. To better understand increasing use of and reliance on bottled water in LMICs we studied available market data which shows that more than half of the top-ten bottled water consuming countries globally are LMICs, and that bottled water use in LMICs is growing rapidly. With respect to global environmental health this trend is problematic in a number of respects, and, we argue, this increasing reliance on bottled water will likely hamper efforts to provide safe and affordable drinking water for all – one of the key objectives of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. As part of this work, we wish to better understand the nature and extent of bottled water contamination; however, there is relatively little publicly available data on bottled water quality, in LMICs or in high-income countries. To complement one of the only systematic review studies examining bottled water use and safety in LMICs, we conducted a comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis of publicly available research studies on bottled water quality and associated health outcomes in China. After reviewing 7,000+ Chinese-language records, we extracted and analyzed data from 200+ eligible articles and are now preparing a manuscript for publication.