Annual report 2015

KWR, WUR and TUDelft join forces to combat diarrhoea

In 2015, KWR, Wageningen University (WUR) and Delft University of Technology (TUDelft) pooled their knowledge to develop a global scale emission and transmission model for pathogenic microorganisms. The model can be used to calculate the concentration of pathogens, such as Cryptosporidium, in rivers and lakes used for drinking water, crop irrigation and recreation.

Child mortality

Every year around 760,000 children below the age of five die from the effects of diarrhoea, making it the second biggest cause of death among children. The most common parasite, Cryptosporidium, spreads easily through drinking water, crop irrigation and swimming water where there is a lack of good sanitary facilities. A small intake of Cryptosporidium can be sufficient for infection to take hold. Climate change, population growth and urbanisation may have a major impact on the increase in the parasite, so the chance of a diarrhoea outbreak can assume life-threatening proportions.

Research model

KWR researcher Gertjan Medema has developed a model in association with WUR and TUDelft that looks at the life cycle of the parasite and the impact of changes in sanitary facilities, urbanisation and population growth on the quantity of parasites in Bangladesh and India.

The model developed is explained in this video.


The research focuses on Bangladesh and India, but many other developing countries have similar problems. The model shows that the increase in parasites is causing concern, but it also shows that tackling the problem promptly, by improving sanitary facilities and treating wastewater, can save many lives in the future.