SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah embarked on a five-year plan to help bring clean water to parts of Pakistan.

The country is one of the most "water-stressed" in the world, according to the World Resources Institute. Death of children from waterborne illness, drought and flood extremes led the global research organization to identify the South Asian country one most in need of help in 2013.

"Estimates indicate at least one quarter of Pakistanis do not have safe and reliable access to clean drinking water," Steven Burian, University of Utah associate professor of civil and environmental engineering. He said the project, announced Wednesday in Pakistan, will help in many ways, beyond providing sustainable, clean water.

"The project is contributing to curriculum advancement, applied research innovations, technology and venture commercialization, business growth, stakeholder engagement, network building and workforce development to achieve water security in Pakistan," Burian said.

To address current and ongoing needs, the project will focus on developing hydraulics, irrigation and drainage systems, provide for integrated water resources management, standardize sanitation and hygiene processes and pioneer environmental engineering.

"By helping Pakistan, we help ourselves," Burian said. He said Utah faces many similar issues as Pakistan, including water management for resiliency to drought, rehabilitation of aging water infrastructure and protection of environmental quality and public health.

"We'll learn as we work with the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology, as well as conducting research and disseminating knowledge," Burian said.

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David Pershing, University of Utah president, said the project "exemplifies a global collaboration," benefitting both Pakistan and academics at the university.

The announcement of future water security came at the launch of the United States-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies Initiative, which intends to expand higher education research and training opportunities to the heavily populated country.

Burian and other experts from the U. were in attendance at the announcement, to represent the upcoming water project, though, a formal signing ceremony with Pakistani dignitaries and university officials will take place Aug. 11 at the University of Utah.

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.comTwitter: wendyleonards

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