About Us

A map of the world highlighting countries that partner with the institute including China, India, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa, Tanzania, Saudia Arabia, and others.Safe Global Water Institute (SGWI) is a consortium of global centers of excellence in research, education, and regional stakeholders working across the boundaries of Water & Sanitation with Health, Food, and Energy. United, we are working to overcome the basic science, engineering solutions, educational capacity, and socio-economic barriers to providing sustainable safe water and sanitation to the peoples of the world.

At the core of the SGWI, is the Center of Advanced Materials for the Purification of Water with Systems (WaterCAMPWS), part of the National Science Foundation’s premier Science and Technology Centers program. For over ten years, the WaterCAMPWS has been a world leader in the water purification sciences with research collaborations in the United States and international partnerships in over 20 countries. SGWI is the transformation of these global partnerships into a focused consortium that can address the full spectrum of safe water and sanitation needs from advancing science and engineering in state-of-the-art facilities, to implementation of new solutions in target rural communities, and to increasing the global human capacity to ensure long-term sustainability of new technologies. SGWI is looking to expand its mutually beneficial partnerships along the whole value chain from invention and implementation to long-term sustainability.


A “cell phone” like revolution is needed to overcome severe hunger, malnutrition, and health degradation, conditions directly linked to the lack of access to safe water (more than 1 in 10 people in the world) and safe sanitation (~3 in 10 people). SGWI was founded on the belief that the innovative and distributed systems that will solve the challenges most impacting rural areas today will also be the solutions for the major cities of the world as their centralized water and sanitation infrastructure begin to fail within the next few decades.

Working united, SGWI is:

Global Water & Sanitation Challenge

Three African children gathering water.The UN Millennium Development Goal is to reduce by half the portion of people without access to “safe” water and improved sanitation by 2015. Currently, more than ten percent (~800 million people) of the world’s population still lacks access to “improved” water, many hundreds of millions more drink “unsafe” water from “improved” sources, and roughly 2.5 billion people lack access to improved sanitation. These are the very same people that are at the bottom of the global economy, people whose livelihood is frequently undercut with morbidity (4 billion annual episodes of diarrhea) and mortality (2 million annual deaths) from waterborne-related diseases.

Water is central to the contributing factors of these deaths. Contamination of drinking water with pathogens, pesticides, toxins and other caustic elements causes malnutrition of children; poor health care of pregnant mothers and neonates; co-infections with other bacteria or viruses that may increase severity of disease; transmission of zoonotic infections from agricultural animals and wild animals. In addition, scarcity of water destabilizes the socio-economic stability of families and communities.

Compounding these challenges are the struggles of African universities to expand and produce high quality students to address these problems because of factors such as insufficient funding, lack of highly qualified faculty, and retention of high quality students. Unresolved, these water, sanitation, and higher education problems negatively impacts local and global economies and political stability.

The Safe Global Water Institute (SGWI) is working to overcome these challenges by leveraging the skills and expertise of a consortium of global centers of excellence in research, education, and regional stakeholders collectively work across the boundaries of Water & Sanitation with Health, Food, and Energy. The SGWI is founded on the premise that using transdisciplinary research/academics focused on increasing the capacity of regional universities to produce local researchers, scientists, and skilled workers is the critical step needed to ensure long-term solutions for improving access to safe water and improved sanitation in the developing word.

Faculty and Staff


[image] Benito J. Mariñas, Ph.D.
Director, SGWI
Ivan Racheff Endowed Professor, and
Interim Head, Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Illinois
Phone: (217) 333-6961
Email: marinas@illinois.edu
[image] Brian M. Pianfetti, Jr., Ph.D.
Managing Director, SGWI
Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Illinois
Phone: 217-244-6979
Email: bpianfet@illinois.edu
[image] Joanna L. Shisler, Ph.D.
Associate Director of Water & Health Research, SGWI
Associate Professor of Microbiology
Molecular and Cellular Biology
University of Illinois
Phone: 217-265-6450
Email: jshisler@illinois.edu
[image] Vicki A. Dixon
Director of Development, SGWI
Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Illinois
Phone: 217-244-0857
Email: vdixon@illinois.edu
[image] Michael J. Plewa, Ph.D.
Education Director, SGWI
Emeritus Professor of Genetics
University of Illinois
Phone: 217-333-3614
Email: mplewa@illinois.edu
[image] Peter Francis Luswata
Uganda Director, SGWI
Director, Uganda Rural Community Support Foundation
Kampala, Uganda
Phone: +256-772-976997
Email: pfluswata@gmail.com
[image] Jeremy S. Guest, Ph.D.
Thrust Leader for Sanitation and Resource Recovery, SGWI
Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering
University of Illinois
Phone: 217-244-9247
Email: jsguest@illinois.edu