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Humanitarian Water Engineering Intensive Course

York Univ.
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The Humanitarian Water Engineering Intensive Course offers participants an opportunity to gain essential knowledge and skills on safe water supply in humanitarian emergencies. The course covers the theoretical fundamentals of, and practical considerations for, the design and operation of water supply systems in humanitarian response including source water selection, water quality, water treatment, distribution and the safe water chain, and outbreak preparedness and response.

Over the course of twelve weeks in Fall 2022, participants will engage in a rich, multifaceted online learning experience consisting of curated readings, knowledge-testing quizzes, lectures from experienced engineering practitioners and faculty, and small group problem-based learning (PBL) activities guided by talented facilitators. A certificate will be offered to participants upon successful completion of the course.

Learning Objectives

Participants will gain an understanding of how to get safe water from sources to populations in precarious situations. The course provides a comprehensive overview of five core technical elements of safe water supply in emergencies:

  1. Water source development (groundwater and surface waters)
  2. Water quality characterization and risk assessment
  3. Water treatment methods, process selection, and design
  4. Safe water supply chain (distribution and delivery)
  5. Waterborne disease outbreak preparedness and response

Participants will gain an understanding of the operational context of humanitarian response by engaging with the following cross-cutting themes throughout the course:

  • Humanitarian principles, structures, and standards
  • Water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) and public health
  • Needs assessments, monitoring, evaluation & learning (MEL), and project management
  • Human factors and community engagement
  • Operational research and emerging questions


This course is intended to help individuals prepare to work as WASH practitioners in the humanitarian sector. The course is most appropriate for those with some education, training, and/or experience in water engineering or in humanitarian response. We especially encourage applications from:

  • Humanitarian professionals from UN agencies and international and local NGOs who want to deepen their knowledge and skills on water engineering in humanitarian response
  • Professional engineers (and other technical specialists) who want to understand how engineering skills are relevant in humanitarian settings
  • Graduate students who want to deepen their technical knowledge and gain exposure to the humanitarian sector

Working fluency in English is required as all course activities, including PBL group work, will be conducted in English. Participants will need to have a stable and reliable internet connection with sufficient bandwidth for online audio meetings (sufficient bandwidth for online video meetings is, however, strongly encouraged). As an online course with global enrolment across multiple time-zones, participants should be prepared to be flexible with respect to the timing of sessions in their local time-zone.

Participants who successfully complete all course components will be awarded a certificate. Please note that this is a non-degree course and is not intended to count toward degree completion requirements.

Course Content

Course content is organized into five technical units. In addition, there are two pre-reading units that provide participants with essential lenses for engaging with course material, and which will be revisited throughout the course:

  • Pre-Reading Unit A: Humanitarian principles, standards, and structures
  • Pre-Reading Unit B: WASH and public health
  • Unit 1: Water quality characterization and risk assessment
  • Unit 2: Water source development in emergencies
  • Unit 3: Water treatment in emergencies
  • Unit 4: Distribution and safe water chain
  • Unit 5: Outbreak preparedness and response

Additionally, readings on humanitarian practicalities will be integrated into technical units 1 to 5 in order to introduce key tools and approaches that will be deployed as part of PBL activities, relating to:

  • Program management in emergencies
  • Assessments, monitoring, and quality assurance

Course Structure

The course is structured into a pre-reading phase followed by intensive course phase consisting of five 2-week technical units. The total course time commitment is approximately 68 hours over 12 weeks. Participants should be ready to commit ~6 hours per week over the course of the 12 weeks.

Pre-Reading Phase

As the course is open to participants from diverse backgrounds including those without operational humanitarian experience, the pre-reading phase provides an opportunity for all participants to gain an understanding of humanitarian principles, standards, and coordination mechanisms, as well as of the essential role WASH plays in protecting public health in emergencies. The pre-reading units provide a crucial set of lenses that participants will take into and revisit throughout the course.

Pre-reading units will be released on the online course platform on 7 Sept 2022. An introductory lecture and welcome session on 16 Sept 2022 will summarize key concepts from the pre-reading units, as well as provide an overview of the whole course.

Intensive Course Phase

The intensive phase of the course is divided into five 2-week technical units, beginning on 19 Sept 2022. During this period, participants should plan to attend online sessions every Friday from 10 am to 12 pm EST, as well as with their small PBL groups at a mutually convenient time determined by each group. Each 2-week unit is structured as follows:

  • First week: Participants independently complete assigned readings for the unit, complete the online unit quiz, and attend the Friday unit lecture (time commitment: ~5 hours in each unit first week).
  • Second week: Participants work in small groups on the unit PBL activity (supported by facilitators) and participate in the Friday PBL workshop (time commitment: ~7 hours in each unit second week).

Course Components

Curated Readings

Course readings cover the technical and humanitarian fundamentals needed for humanitarian water engineering. They are curated to provide a comprehensive overview of each technical area and to prepare participants to contribute meaningfully in their PBL groups. All participants, therefore, irrespective of past experience or training, are expected to complete all assigned readings. We recommend participants complete each unit’s assigned readings prior to the Friday unit lecture, in order to gain the most from it. Each unit consists of 2 to 3 hours of core readings, for a total of approximately 20 hours of independent reading over the course. In addition to the core readings, we also provide enrichment readings for those seeking additional depth.

To promote active learning during readings, participants are provided unit reading guides that will help signpost the relevant parts of each reading and situate it within the larger framework of the courses. Participants will also complete knowledge-testing quizzes for each unit on the online eClass platform. Participants will also be provided case studies of past humanitarian water supply interventions to help illustrate key considerations for the PBL activities.

Online Lectures

Live teaching sessions will be held on Zoom with subject matter expert (SME) lecturers during the Friday of the first week of each unit. Each 2-hour session consists of two lectures, one on the engineering fundamentals of the unit topic and the second on field applications. The unit PBL design challenge will also be introduced at the end of the Friday lecture. Lectures will be recorded and available online for those who are unable to attend (absences must be indicated in advance).

Group PBL Design Challenges

The PBL activities for each unit provide a structured space in which participants collaboratively work through the complexities of applying what they have learned in the readings and lectures to real-world problems. Participants will analyze real-world challenges and devise, justify, and prioritize possible solutions. The PBL activities provide an opportunity for participants to work through how technical decisions, human factors, and humanitarian principles interact in complex ways during emergencies.

Participants will meet in their assigned groups to coordinate the collaborative work for each unit’s PBL design challenge. Each group will be assisted by a facilitator, who will help participants interpret the challenge, figure out how to approach it, and help groups work through any sticky problems that may come up. Participants will be responsible for scheduling their own group meetings with their facilitator. The estimated time commitment for each PBL challenge is 7 hours per unit (~3 hours each unit week for collaborative group work plus ~2 hours each unit week for independent work on the PBL challenge).

The group PBL activities are a core component of the course, and all participants are expected to engage actively during group work sessions and the PBL workshops. Roles within groups will be rotated unit to unit to ensure that all participants have an opportunity to contribute in different ways. Participants are expected to complete their design challenges and be ready to share back with the plenary group during the Friday PBL workshop in the second week of each unit.

PBL Workshops

At the end of the second week of each unit, we will meet up for a 2-hour plenary session to share back responses to the design challenge, work on collaborative activities, and explore the key learnings with course instructors and facilitators.

Información sobre tarifas

We are pleased to offer subsidized course fees to select groups, as outlined below: All participants from LMICs: Subsidized fee: $500 CAD Graduate students from HICs: Subsidized fee: $750 CAD NGO, INGO, UN employees from HICs: Subsidized fee: $1,750 CAD Engineers and other professionals from HICs: Full fee: $2,500 CAD

Cómo registrarse

To register, fill out the application form and upload your résumé here:

Applications will be evaluated based on the information provided and successful applicants will be invited to register for the course. Enrolment is capped at 42 participants and registration will be on a first–come, first–served basis. The last day to apply is 31 August 2022.

If you have questions about the course or application process, please contact the course team at: