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Prestigious Fellowship for engineer working to improve safe drinking water in India and Sub-Saharan Africa

Dr Sally Weston

Press release issued: 6 September 2023

An engineer who is helping to improve the provision of safe drinking water in Sub-Saharan Africa and India has been selected for a prestigious Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowship.

Dr Sally Weston, a Research Associate in Environmental Engineering, Climate Change and Health at the University of Bristol, will research ways to improve intermittent water supplies for low resource communities. 

Most people get their drinking water through underground pipes, but in many parts of the Global South, these pipes only provide water for a limited amount of time. 

Globally, more than one billion people are served by these ‘intermittent water supply systems’, and supply in severely rundown systems can be as little as a few hours each week. 

Dr Weston explained: “Operating drinking water supply systems this way causes the pipeline infrastructure to quickly deteriorate, creating inequitable supply for consumers and threatens public health – 17 million cases of infection are annually attributed to intermittent water supplies worldwide. 

"However, we know very little about where and when such effects occur, and what the subsequent impacts for consumers are.” 

These systems must be reformed to meet a key United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal – safe equitable drinking water for all by 2030. 

Dr Weston’s fellowship will combine data collected from real-world locations combined with state-of-the-art characterisation methods to explore how water systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and India behave, and what the subsequent impacts are for consumers. 

Dr Weston added: “The results will fill an important gap in our understanding and enable development of tools to help water utilities to lessen the impacts of intermittent drinking water systems”. 

The Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellowships programme supports outstanding early-career researchers to become future research leaders in engineering. In addition to direct financial support, the scheme provides an opportunity to establish a research track record, and in turn, to be in a stronger position to apply for further funding and develop a research team. 

Awardees also benefit from mentoring support from an Academy Fellow on research and career development, as well as reduced teaching and administrative duties, allowing more time for research, training opportunities, and networking with other Research Fellows and Academy Fellows. 

Find out more information about Dr Weston’s work on intermittent water supply.

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