It is common knowledge that the human body is mostly water. Yet clean, abundant water, the most essential of resources, is just a dream for many people around the world.

In places like California - now facing a sixth straight year of drought - most families with dry wells can at least obtain safe bottled water. That's not always the case for the nearly 768 million people who lack access to safe drinking water, and about 760,000 children - enough to fill Yankee Stadium 15 times - who die from preventable waterborne diarrheal disease ever year.

Water poverty - the lack of access to adequate safe water - is a growing threat not only to people's health, but to agriculture, ecosystems and global security. In a 2014 talk at Stanford, Jordan's minister of water cited water scarcity and related issues such as high food prices as key factors in Middle East unrest. Global warming and the resulting extreme weather will only complicate the situation.

Stanford researchers from a range of disciplines are working together on innovative, real-world answers to water supply and access challenges. In addition to high-tech, multi-million-dollar projects such as the under-construction Codiga Resource Recovery Center , Stanford faculty, students and postdoctoral scholars are developing affordable and sustainable solutions such as automatic disinfection devices with no moving parts, waterless toilets and solar-powered irrigation systems. They also are looking at water supply issues from a law and public policy standpoint, providing guidance to decision-makers through knowledge-based tools like Water in the West's Understanding California's Groundwater website.

The Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment is supporting a number of centers, programs and research teams in the development of these and many more innovative freshwater solutions. Read on for a selection of stories about inspiring advances related to drinking water, the environment, sanitation, water security, groundwater and agriculture.

By Rob Jordan

Drinking Water: Safe at the Source  »

Stanford researchers are developing an affordable and sustainable solution to the challenge of providing safe drinking water to nearly 1 billion people in city slums.

Environment: Ensuring Water for Nature and People  »

Stanford researchers compile best practices, forward solutions to ensure enough water is available for natural systems and people

Sanitation: When Toilets Fly  »

Initiative run by Stanford graduate students aims for a dry solution to sanitation challenges in urban slums where untreated sewage in waterways spreads disease

Water Security: A Bridge to Peace in the Middle East  »

Stanford project in Jordan, a country that traditionally serves as a stabilizing force in the Middle East, holds promise for better water management and less conflict in arid regions around the world

Agriculture: Delivering Water with Sunlight  »

Innovative multi-year project shows promise of economically and environmentally sustainable solar irrigation systems.

Urban Water: Stormwater as a Drought Solution  »

Stanford researchers are working with local and federal agencies to provide template for capture and reuse of stormwater in dry regions such as the American West.