Alasdair Cohen

PhD Candidate

2012 Profile Pic - A.Cohen


M.Sc.  Water Science, Policy & Management - University of Oxford

B.A.  Psychology - University of North Carolina

Research Interests

Household water treatment, water quality, WASH, poverty metrics, Global Environmental Health, Asia/China

Research Description

My past and present work and research focus on water quality and drinking water treatment, and their intersection with rural poverty, poverty metrics and development. Geographically, I work mostly in Asia.

My doctoral research is focused on point-of-use household water treatment (HWT) generally, and the health and environmental implications of boiling (as a method of HWT) in particular. My studies and research are an interdisciplinary blend of Environmental Science, Public Health and Behavioral/Social Science, with four main areas:

  1. Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) and rural development policy
  2. Water-related pathogens, water contamination and household drinking water treatment
  3. Innovation Diffusion and attitude/behavior change theory
  4. Poverty metrics (surveys and indicators) and intervention design

The primary objective of my doctoral research is to understand the extent to which a HWT approach other than boiling could potentially improve human and environmental health in rural China, with a focus on better understanding which factors may contribute to long-term adoption of HWT generally. To address these issues, I work with the National Center for Rural Water Supply Technical Guidance (NCRWSTG), a division of the China Center for Disease Control & Prevention (China CDC) and their provincial China CDC counterparts in Guangxi Province.

During the summer of 2013 we collected data from 450 households using a geographically stratified cross-sectional design. IFAD’s Multidimensional Poverty Assessment Tool ( was used to collect demographic and poverty-related data alongside purpose-designed survey questions about water and fuel use. Drinking water samples were collected from every household and analyzed for microbial contaminants, and physicochemical analysis was conducted for each village’s primary drinking water source. Data collection was repeated in a subset of villages during the 2013-2014 winter to address seasonality, and remote temperature sensors (on kettles and pots) were used to corroborate household responses about boiling frequency and duration. The work is ongoing and initial results are expected in 2014.

[site last updated February, 2014]



Selected Publications

Selected Publications

     -please see CV for other publications-

Journal Articles:

  • Cohen, A. & Saisana, M. (2014). Quantifying the qualitative: Eliciting expert input to develop the Multidimensional Poverty Assessment Tool. Journal of Development Studies, 1 (50) 35-50.
  • Cohen, A. (2010). The Multidimensional Poverty Assessment Tool: A new framework for measuring rural poverty. Development in Practice, 20 (7) 887-897.
  • Cohen, A. & Sullivan, C. (2010). Water & poverty in rural China: Developing an instrument to assess the multiple dimensions of water & poverty. Ecological Economics, 69 (5) 999-1009.



  • IFAD [Cohen, A. & Jayne, S.] (in press). The Multidimensional Poverty Assessment Tool: User’s Guide. Rome: IFAD
  • Cohen, A. (2009). The Multidimensional Poverty Assessment Tool: Design, development & application of a new framework for measuring rural poverty. Rome: IFAD. [link]

United Nations Publications:

  • Cohen, A. (2009). The Multidimensional Poverty Assessment Tool: User's Guide. Working Paper. Rome: IFAD. [link-English] [link-Chinese] [link-Hindi]
  • Cleveringa, R., Kay, M. & Cohen, A. (Eds.) (2009). InnoWat: Water, innovations, learning & rural livelihoods, Rome: IFAD. [link]
  • Sullivan, C., Cohen, A., Faures, J. M., & Santini, G. (2009) The Rural Water Livelihoods Index. Working Paper. FAO. [link]

Honors and Awards

An EPA STAR fellowship (2012-2015) helps fund my research.

Contact Information



Curriculum Vitae


Research Group(s)

Mailing Address

Dept of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management
UC Berkeley
130 Mulford Hall #3114
Berkeley, CA 94720