Waterborne diseases from drinking unsafe water contribute to high incidence of illness in developing regions.  At least 1.8 billion people globally use a source of drinking water that is faecally contaminated and thus likely to lead to diarrheal illness: nearly 1,000 children die each day due to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrhoeal diseases. In 2010, the UN General Assembly explicitly recognised the human right to water and sanitation. Everyone has the right to sufficient, continuous, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.  Low cost technologies for safe drinking water have significant potential to improve the health of communities who rely on unsafe water, and thus improve their quality of life through reduced illnesses, reduced absence from employment, improved school attendance, improved family life, and less stress on females (normally responsible for water in household).

Low cost water treatment systems may be produced and maintained in these communities thereby potentially creating added value with social economy enterprise (pro-poor development).   Safe drinking-water is required for drinking, food preparation and personal hygiene.  Diseases related to the consumption of contaminated drinking-water place a major burden on human health. Therefore, interventions to improve the quality of drinking-water will provide significant benefits to health.  Furthermore, there is a severe lack of access to improved sanitation with up to 2.5 billion people who do not have access to improved sanitation facilities, with open defecation being widely practiced in many regions.  There is an opportunity to utilise architectural design with integrated water and sanitation, for low cost sustainable housing, which can alleviate the problems of waterborne disease.

This research will focus on integrated water and sanitation, with urban design solutions in peri-urban and rural areas.  This project involves an interdisciplinary approach with expertise in architectural design (Golden, Lecturer Architecture and Spatial Design) along with expertise in water collection and treatment, and sanitation (Byrne and Fernandez, School of Engineering).

The key focus will be the integration of rain water harvesting and solar disinfection for drinking water, along with basic sanitation facilities integrated within sustainable housing design thus preventing cross contamination within the homes.

This project is directly linked to the recently funded GCRF RCUK SAFEWATER project (£4.8 M from EPSRC).  SAFEWATER is a transdisciplinary collaboration led by Ulster (Byrne is PI), in collaboration with the University of Medellin (Colombia), University of Sao Paulo (Brazil), and the NGOs Canatro Azul (Mexico) and CTA (Colombia).  This will allow for the PhD student to be integrated into a large multidisciplinary team, and to formulate ideas with feedback from stakeholders based in ODA countries.  The proposal addresses the Ulster 5 & 50 strategic themes of Healthy Communities, Sustainability and Social Renewal.   There is significant opportunity for impact through the SAFEWATER network leading to real outcomes for the very poor in ODA countries.

Essential criteria

  • To hold, or expect to achieve by 15 August, an Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC) in a related or cognate field.


    The University offers the following awards to support PhD study and applications are invited from UK, EU and overseas for the following levels of support:

    Department for the Economy (DFE)

    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,285 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fee’s component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided). For Non-EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK. This scholarship also comes with £900 per annum for three years as a research training support grant (RTSG) allocation to help support the PhD researcher.

    Due consideration should be given to financing your studies; for further information on cost of living etc. please refer to:

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University