Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2.5 hours / session

Course Description

This course introduces students to the principles of infrastructure planning in developing countries, with a focus on appropriate and sustainable technologies for water and sanitation. We address the two-fold problem: “How do we provide safe drinking water for the 1.1 billion people and adequate sanitation for the 2.6 billion people who are currently lacking these basic conditions of human well-being?” Technically, we know how to provide safe drinking water and treated wastewater and have done so in high-income countries over the past century with considerable success. The more complex, systems-level problem is how to do so on a global scale in low-income countries in a great variety of different cultures, geographical locations and conditions. Microbial contamination is still considered to be the most critical risk factor in drinking water quality worldwide. However, chemical contamination, from natural and anthropogenic sources, for example arsenic, fluoride, pesticides, petrochemicals, or salinity contamination, is also affecting millions of people. Mega-cities in the developing world are typically overwhelmed by millions of gallons of untreated municipal and industrial wastewater. Rural areas typically lack even the most basic sanitation facilities.

We will tackle the clean water problem from a multi-disciplinary perspective incorporating planning, engineering, environmental, cultural, public health, human rights, institutional and economic perspectives and considering factors such as technical efficacy, appropriateness (simple design, low cost, using local, easily available materials), social acceptability, economic sustainability, institutional viability, and political will. Particular emphasis is placed on the role of users and communities as collaborators in infrastructure planning and project implementation. We will draw on many specific examples from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Students will be encouraged to pursue more focused topics within the area of water supply and sanitation that are of interest to them. Upon completion of the course, students will be able to plan simple, yet reliable, water supply and sanitation systems for developing countries that are compatible with local customs and available human and material resources. Although we focus on water supply and sanitation, the principles presented are equally applicable to other types of infrastructure development. Graduate and upper division students from any department who are interested in international development at the grassroots level are encouraged to participate in this interdisciplinary course.

Course Objectives

  • To comprehend the global picture of water/sanitation/hygiene and health;
  • To know the major technologies and processes of water/sanitation infrastructure in developing countries;
  • To understand the social and cultural factors (e.g., gender issues, children’s needs) that must be considered and incorporated into the planning and implementation of water supply and sanitation systems in developing countries;
  • To become familiar with the patterns of domestic water use and waste disposal in developing countries, and to describe the modes of transmission of water-related diseases;
  • To understand the principles of operation of a range of appropriate water and sanitation technologies, and to be able to critically evaluate them with respect to multiple criteria;
  • To investigate the concept of community participation and its role in enabling project success and sustainability;
  • To understand why infrastructure planning in developing countries is so challenging, to know the major obstacles and why many disciplines must work together to address the problem;
  • Within students’ areas of interest, to plan or evaluate an infrastructure project in a developing country as part of a multi-disciplinary team or to pursue a more focused individual project.

Course Policies

  • Attendance — Regular attendance in class is expected of all students.
  • Courtesy — Please ensure that your phones, computers, PDAs, music, and/or pagers are turned off during class.
  • Academic Honesty — Students will work in teams to develop their group projects; however, individual assignments must be completed individually. Plagiarism, the use of writings or ideas of another as one’s own, is unacceptable. Special care should be taken not to borrow and modify materials taken from the Internet or any electronic or printed source. Any student who violates this code of academic honesty will be cited immediately.
  • Late Work Policy — We do not accept late work.
  • Evaluation and Grading — Quizzes, written assignments, projects, and exams that are submitted on time will be assigned a letter grade ranging from A to F.
  • Special Needs — Please advise us early on of any special needs or disabilities so that appropriate accommodations can be made.

Assignments and Grading



– In-class participation (weekly) (15%)
– Written participation via online discussion board (10) (10%)
– Mid-course appraisal (1) (0% of grade, but required)

Tech tutorial (1) 10%
Quizzes (2) 10%
Policy memos (2) 10%
Major written assignment (1) 20%
Final paper (1) 25%