SETS: Sustainable Water and Sanitation in Southeast Asia

Singapore city photo

In light of the ongoing global COVID-19 crisis and worldwide travel restrictions, which are expected to remain in place for an indefinite period of time, Stanford University is suspending all BOSP Summer Quarter 2019-20 programs (see full announcement).

Seminar Quick Facts

Locations: Singapore and Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City)

Faculty Leader: William Tarpeh, Chemical Engineering

Arrival date in Singapore: August 24, 2020

Departure date from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: September 6, 2020

Information Session: January 9, 2020  (5pm - 6pm) in Shriram Center for Bioengineering and Chemical Engineering room 262 (Please refer to the info session slide deck)

Program Cost: $600 program fee. Fee covers room and board, transportation and course activities during the program. Fee excludes airfare to/from the program location. Financial assistance towards the program fee and cost of travel may be available. Please visit the Overseas Seminar Overview webpage for complete information.

Academic Prerequisites
There will be a couple of preparatory meetings in Spring Quarter.

Additional Program Requirements
1) Vaden Travel Health Orientation
2) 1x1 Appointment with Vaden Travel Clinic
3) Ground Rules - In order to optimize safety during the program, students will be required to agree to and sign Ground Rules that may restrict behavior throughout the program. These Ground Rules are in addition to the BOSP Participation and Assumption of Risk, Release of Claims, Indemnification and Hold Harmless Agreement that all students sign and agree to at the time of program application. Students’ parents/families will also need to sign these Ground Rules to confirm that they acknowledge the specific dangers of travel to the program location.

Activity Level
Light/Moderate: Activities may include city walking tours, easy/short hikes, museum and other site visits as well as an occasional physical activity such as snorkeling, hiking, or kayaking. For a full list of program activity levels refer to the Overview page.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Information for Travelers to SingaporeHealth Information for Travelers to Vietnam

US State Department Country Information: Singapore, Vietnam

Visa Information: Consulate General of SingaporeConsulate General of Vietnam

General Information: Visit the Overseas Seminars Overview page

Application Deadline: January 26, 2020 at 11:59pm (applications will open in December 2019). Please visit BOSP's Application Process page for more information.

Questions? Schedule an appointment with a BOSP staff member.

General Description

Water scarcity is one of the most rapidly intensifying environmental challenges facing humanity in the 21st century. At current levels of water consumption and pollution, potable water demand will exceed supply by 40% in 2030. In response, cities will transport water from farther distances and invest in desalination, both of which can have deleterious environmental impacts. Securing adequate water resources will require treating wastewater to produce valuable products, including potable water, fertilizers, and industrial precursors. This closed-loop, resource recovery approach can also reduce environmental contamination, energy required for water treatment, and potential human health hazards. 

This course investigates sustainable water and sanitation management through connections with water, energy, and food scarcity in Southeast Asia.

Upon completion of the course, students will demonstrate improved familiarity with:

  1. The linkages between food, energy, water, and sanitation provision
  2. Key challenges and opportunities facing each sector, and cross-cutting solutions
  3. Ways in which industries, governments, and research institutions envision resource efficiency in the 21st century


Southeast Asia offers opportunities for students to experience 21st century challenges to water and excreta management in highly industrialized, urbanized settings (Singapore) and resource-constrained developing settings (Vietnam). Students will experience and consider how water, energy, and food are managed differently to address resource limitations and environmental impacts in both nations. Within each nation, students will visit various industrial, municipal, and government sites that consider sustainable management of food, energy, and water resources. Undergraduate students with interests in engineering, science, international development, environmental studies, and policy will find this water-focused seminar compelling. Upon return, students may pursue research or industrial opportunities with a newly informed perspective on the fundamental importance of water and sanitation for global food production, industrial processes, and public health.

Living and Travel Conditions

We will primarily be staying in hotels, with the exception of a possible overnight cruise on Ha Long Bay in Vietnam.


Prof. William Tarpeh is an assistant professor of chemical engineering, and, by courtesy, civil & environmental engineering at Stanford University.  The Tarpeh Lab develops and evaluates novel approaches to resource recovery from “waste” waters at several synergistic scales: molecular mechanisms of chemical transport and transformation; novel unit processes that increase resource efficiency; and systems-level assessments that identify optimization opportunities. Will completed his B.S. in chemical engineering at Stanford, his M.S. and Ph.D. in environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, and postdoctoral training at University of Michigan in environmental engineering. On campus, Will leads a research group of chemical and environmental engineers in designing and evaluating novel materials and processes for recovering valuable products from wastewaters. He has worked on water and sanitation projects in several nations, including Singapore, Kenya, Ethiopia, Peru, South Africa, Senegal, the U.S., and Switzerland.

Prerequisites and Expectations 

No prerequisite courses are required for this seminar. However, there will be a couple of preparatory meetings in Spring Quarter.

We expect to foster a collaborative, inclusive, interdisciplinary environment with students from diverse backgrounds interested in water and sanitation. Students from any major are welcome to apply. Students will meet with various government, industry, and academic institutions focused on sustainable provision of water and sanitation. We also expect students to display the flexibility and maturity required by fieldwork and visits to low-income settings, including potentially unfamiliar water and sanitation infrastructure.

Application Process

Decisions will be based on application materials. There are no interviews. The seminar capacity is 15 students.

Grading Basis

Students will be required to submit reflections and group exercises during the seminar, along with a final report. All work will be graded on a letter basis by the seminar assistant and faculty member.

Passport and Visa

Students are solely responsible for obtaining their passport and visa (if applicable). Every BOSP participant MUST have a signed passport that is valid for at least 6 months after the scheduled RETURN date from the overseas program. Students who do not have a valid passport must apply for a new or renewed passport immediately. For information on obtaining or renewing a U.S. passport please visit the State Department website.

To determine whether a visa is necessary for your program, visit the Consulate General of Vietnam and the Consulate General of Singapore. You may also consult with the recommended visa service providers listed below.

VisaCentral by CIBT
VisaCentral by CIBT offers online Stanford rates, or contact the local office:

In person: 555 Montgomery St. Suite 700, San Francisco, CA 94111
Walk-in hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
By phone: (877) 535-0688

Health and Safety

Students on international programs should be aware that attitudes toward medical conditions, disabilities, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and psychological conditions vary by culture and under the laws of the host countries. These differences impact the level of treatment and accommodation available abroad. Students should give serious consideration to their health and personal circumstances when accepting a place in a program and should consult with their clinician.

While the benefits of international travel can be enormous, it is often associated with certain health and safety risks. Thankfully, a number of interventions exist to mitigate these risks including vaccines, use of certain medications, and specific behavior changes. Health concerns vary by the particular destination, time of year, the health of the individual, type of accommodations, length of stay and specific activities. Participants should be up to date on all their regular immunizations, check the CDC website for vaccinations and immunizations. In addition, specific travel vaccines such as typhoid, yellow fever, or rabies vaccines may be indicated. Various types of medication may also be needed to prevent life-threatening malaria or altitude illness; or to treat traveler’s diarrhea. Finally, students should learn and utilize insect precautions, food and water precautions, and general safety precautions. These can prevent illnesses such as dengue fever, schistosomiasis, HIV; or accidents such as those involving motor vehicles. In spite of all the precautions, occasionally students do become ill or sustain an injury while traveling. Thankfully, most of these are minor. However, it is critical that students have a clear plan of care in case of an emergency on their trip. The travel clinic at the Vaden Health Center has produced an online travel health module that provides comprehensive strategies to help you stay safe and healthy while traveling.

There will be a mandatory Singapore and Vietnam health orientation in April and all students will also be required to make an appointment with the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic by April 5, 2020 to discuss any health concerns, pre-departure immunizations, and any personal prescriptions before going abroad.

Students must review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for complete information regarding the health concerns and vaccine recommendations specific to Vietnam and Singapore. Students must also discuss with the on-campus Vaden Health Center Travel Clinic or a travel health specialist about the best ways to protect their health.

Students must review the U. S. State Department’s Country Information for complete information on safety and security in Vietnam and Singapore.

As with any foreign travel, students are advised to be alert to their surroundings, and be particularly aware of any health and safety advisories for the area in which they will be visiting. Students should consult with their health care provider(s) to be prepared for potential illness. Additional issues of personal health and safety and precautions will be discussed in detail during the mandatory pre-seminar preparation and upon arriving in the country.

If you are uncomfortable traveling under such conditions, you should not apply to this seminar.

Program Modification and Cancellation

Stanford reserves the right to cancel or modify the Program before or during its operation for any reason, including natural disasters, emergencies, low enrollment, unavailability of facilities or personnel, or compliance with the University travel policy at