Human well-being is one of the key long-term indicators of a sustainable environment. John Snow, a prominent 19th century physician, provided insights on role of drinking contaminated water and cholera outbreaks. Extrapolation of Snow’s discovery on locating the source of cholera (in local wells) leads to the tenets of traditional doctrines of environmental sustainability of water where source capacities (such as physical conditions of water) are convolutedly linked to sink capacities (bacteria growth in water) of a system, a balance that must be maintained to sustain human life supporting mechanisms. With a changing climate, stresses on water availability in regions where population vulnerability interacts with hydroclimatic extremes is increasing, leading to question on how environmental sustainability of water will affect human wellness.
At Human Health and Hydro-environmental Sustainability Simulation Lab (H3Sim), we view environmental sustainability as the ability of a region, and thus communities, to endure changes in natural and ecological functions of water limiting outbreak of diseases within human populations. A dynamic equilibrium exist between large scale geophysical (such as sea surface temperature-SST; precipitation, evaporative fluxes) and local scale water-ecological processes (salinity, plankton, organic matter) in water resources (ponds, rivers, lakes). The ecological processes aid in growth and proliferation of water based pathogens (such as cholera, rotavirus, Shigella and other vibrios). Societal determinants, such as access to safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, defines interaction of population with water for daily activities.
Our interdisciplinary research group attempts to understand perturbations in hydrological and climatic processes affecting local environmental conditions of pathogens leading to deterioration of human health. The ultimate objective is to produce "actionable knowledge" to reduce incidence and mortality from water-related diseases by providing timely and reliable predication of a disease outbreak, and policy inputs for improving sanitation infrastructure and drinking water access to vulnerable regions. Ironically, water-related diseases cannot be eradicated since the causal agents are always present in the environment. Therefore, we need to understand appropriate spatial and temporal scales of large scale hydro-climatological processes and develop mechanisms to relate it to the causative agents of the disease. Disease prediction using with hydrological models embedded in epidemiological information can be very powerful in decision making and ultimately saving human lives.
We use state of the art simulation tools and methods for following broad research themes:
1. Remote sensing of hydroclimatic processes for predicting occurrence of water-related diseases.
2. Understanding water and energy fluxes in tropical agricultural basins: issues of scales and observational data analysis.
3. Impact of changing climate on outbreak, prevalence and transmission of diseases.