Saint Louis University launches new WATER Institute

The new institute aims to solve some of the world’s most complex water-related issues

Saint Louis University has established the Water Access, Technology, Environment and Resources (WATER) Institute. The new institute brings together researchers in the areas of engineering and science, policy and economics, and public health and social justice to help solve some of the world’s most complex water-related issues.

The research conducted at the Saint Louis University WATER Institute focuses primarily on three critical areas: developing clean-water access at home and around the world; protecting aquatic ecosystems and the water supply; and improving water infrastructure to address key societal needs, such as preventing and mitigating water-related natural disasters. 

“Many critical issues surrounding water — such as access to clean water — require a collaborative, multifaceted approach from experts in various fields,” says Amanda Cox, Ph.D., director of the Saint Louis University WATER Institute. “The WATER Institute builds on SLU’s history of producing ground-breaking research by bringing together researchers from different fields and areas of expertise to focus on finding solutions to urgent water-related issues.”

Current research projects include:

  • Testing water-treatment technologies for use in developing nations to evaluate which are most effective for clean drinking water at the household level;
  • Determining the origin and the amount of microplastics flowing into local rivers and groundwater systems; and
  • Using machine learning to estimate the volume of water storage available in United States reservoirs.

“Water is crucial for life and critical for commerce, it affects health and economies in countless ways,” says Fred Pestello, Ph.D., president of Saint Louis University. “The research projects sponsored through the WATER Institute will have a substantial impact on local, national and global communities, and their most vulnerable populations.”

The WATER Institute fills a significant need for urban water research in the United States, specifically, in the Midwest. Saint Louis University’s location in the city of St. Louis at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers makes it an ideal setting for groundbreaking water research. Saint Louis University’s Jesuit mission to serve humanity is also at the heart of the WATER Institute. The institute’s findings will address public-health issues and protect society from natural and human-made water-related disasters.

The origins of Saint Louis University’s new WATER Institute lie in an internal Big Ideas competition to define university-wide strategic research priorities. Saint Louis University’s ability to invest in water-related research was greatly enhanced in 2018 when Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield made a historic $50 million gift that established the Saint Louis University Research Institute to accelerate research growth at the University.


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