Traditionally, engineering research related to solving global water challenges has been done across three interfaces: food (food security), energy, and health. Unique to the Illinois approach is the inclusion of sanitation as an equally important piece of the puzzle. Why? Because sanitation touches each of the other interfaces in critical ways.
"Most people working in water research relate these challenges to food, energy, and health," explains Benito J. Mariñas, Ivan Racheff Professor of Environmental Engineering and Department Head of CEE at Illinois. "But we always like to add sanitation to this approach, because people forget about that, and it is such an important component. For example, sanitation is extremely important for food security in developing countries because it can easily become contaminated by sewage, and if you drink that you will get very sick. But the wastewater also has energy in the organics, which can actually be used to produce biogas. Of course if we don't do it well, a lot of people are getting sick because of the lack of sanitation in water. So I like to remind people when we talk about water with those three interfaces, that sanitation is centric."