Harnessing Microbial Innovations for Sustainable and Equitable Water Management


Helen Onyeaka

Associate Professor | Food Microbiology Lecturer

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Harnessing Microbial Innovations for Sustainable and Equitable Water Management

Co-author: Sally O’Neill

As the world enters into a period of unprecedented changes, coupled with projections of a 20-30% water demand rise globally by 2050 driven by population growth reaching peak levels of 9.3 billion, this is a more important era than ever for a shift to sustainable water management practices [2]. The existence of the water resource conflict, with 286 international rivers and 592 transboundary aquifers shared by 153 countries, unequivocally demonstrates the significance and the growing need for new ways of preventing a shortage of water, securing peace, and keeping conflicts at bay [9]. Among these approaches, microbial involvement in water management appears as a significant tool for building up water sustainability through emancipation, cooperation, and equitable distribution of resources [5].

The Microbial Solution: Pioneers in Water Purification and Management

Microorganisms are the pathfinder in seeking and implementing solutions to water scarcity and contamination as well as preventing water conflicts, as shown in Table 1. By enacting this capability of bioremediation in which pollutants are treated and changed into easier-to-handle forms, they provide nature-based and simple ways to purify water bodies [1]. Consequently, not only has the quality of water improved, which can be used by industry, agriculture, and domestic purposes, but it also serves to reduce water conflict that would have otherwise happened [4].

Technological developments in the field of microbial technology for treating wastewater are currently revolutionizing the water management approach. These technologies permit the recycling and reuse of water. This activity helps significantly to combat the problem of water scarcity [3]. Through the use of microbial solutions in water management projects, communities will lessen their dependence on limited scarcity of water which ensures the resolution of disputes among the riparian states with a focus on collaborative problem-solving [6].

Table 1: Roles of Microbes in Promoting Water Peace

Role of Microbes in Promoting Water PeaceDescription
BioremediationMicrobes play a crucial role in bioremediation, converting pollutants in water into less harmful forms, thereby improving water quality and reducing potential conflicts over contaminated water sources.
Water PurificationThrough natural processes like biodegradation, microbes help in purifying water, making it safer for consumption and reducing disputes over access to clean water.


Biologically activated carbon utilizes bacteria to form a biofilm on Granulated activated carbon. This combination can clean the water to remove undesirable chemical pollutants for small-scale drinking water sources.

Conflict PreventionBy improving water quality and reducing contamination, microbes contribute to the prevention of conflicts that may arise due to disputes over water resources.
Sustainable Water UseMicrobial technologies enable sustainable water management practices, such as recycling and reuse of water, which can alleviate water scarcity and minimize the potential for conflicts over water resources.


Integrating Microbes in Water Diplomacy and Health

Applying microbial technologies seeks to realize the principles of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Water Convention, which promotes fair and reasonable utilization of transboundary waters. When linking microbial approaches both on the national water administration level and as well as the basis of the water management procedures in transboundary areas, countries achieve cooperation, peaceful co-existence and sustainable use of water resources, which lays the foundation for internationally prosperous regions [7].

Microbes’ role extends further than water purification as their importance also includes disease prevention. The UNECE Protocol on Water & Health is an example of such an initiative which can drastically diminish water-related diseases with the use of eco-friendly treaties that guarantee clean water for every population. Adoption of this measure brings about healthier communities and other factors that result in a stable and peaceful region where the lack of water for the people used in sustaining themselves could have led to disputes [8].

A Call to Action: Embracing Microbial Innovations for a Peaceful Future

For the challenges of managing the world’s water resources to be overcome, microbiological technology, when applied creatively, offers a pathway to the world where water serves as the source of collaboration rather than conflict. The assimilation of these technologies into water management practices becomes an entryway that goes towards equality, sustainability, and a future of global peace.

The insights from the article concern water conflicts that provide a reminder of the complexity of these issues and the necessity for the application of creative thinking in water management. Under this categorization of water conflicts by the Pacific Institute into different triggers and impacts, waterborne diseases prominently, while being highlighted as possible threats, remain the focal point, especially when taking into cognizance that the mitigation of these triggers becomes the very core point.

We encourage micro-solutions by advocating for a world where water is used not only as the station for the conservation of our vital resources but also contributing to the bonds of friendship and comprehension between various countries. Let us engage on the power of microbes as one of the greatest technologies, alongside other efforts and even diplomatic relations, to be certain that water is the source of life, prosperity, and peace will never be deprived of anyone.



  1. Ayilara, M. S., & Babalola, O. O. (2023). Bioremediation of environmental wastes: the role of microorganisms. Frontiers in Agronomy, 5, 1183691. https://doi.org/10.3389/fagro.2023.1183691
  2. Boretti, A., & Rosa, L. (2019). Reassessing the projections of the World Water Development Report. NPJClean Water, 2(1), 15. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41545-019-0039-9
  3. Fowler, S. J., & Smets, B. F. (2017). Microbial biotechnologies for potable water production. Microbialbiotechnology, 10(5), 1094–1097. https://doi.org/10.1111/1751-7915.12837
  4. Sharma, M., Agarwal, S., Agarwal Malik, R., Kumar, G., Pal, D. B., Mandal, M., Sarkar, A., Bantun, F., Haque, S., Singh, P., Srivastava, N., & Gupta, V. K. (2023). Recent advances in microbial engineering approaches for wastewater treatment: a review. Bioengineered, 14(1), 2184518. https://doi.org/10.1080/21655979.2023.2184518
  5. Shahid, M.J., Al-Surhanee, A.A., Kouadri, F., Ali, S., Nawaz, N., Afzal, M., Rizwan, M., Ali, B. & Soliman, M. H. (2020). Role of microorganisms in the remediation of wastewater in floating treatment wetlands: a review. Sustainability, 12(14), 5559. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/su12145559
  6. Tomczyk, P., Wierzchowski, P.S., Dobrzyński, J., Kulkova, I., Wróbel, B., Wiatkowski, M., Kuriqi, A., Skorulski, W., Kabat, T., Prycik, M. & Drobnik, J. (2024). Effective microorganism water treatment method for rapid eutrophic reservoir restoration. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 31(2), 2377-2393. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-023-31354-2
  7. UNECE (n.d.). The Water Convention and the Protocol on Water and Health. https://unece.org/environment-policy/water
  8. UNECE (n.d.). About the Protocol on Water and Health. https://unece.org/environment-policy/water/protocol-on-water-and-health/about-the-protocol/introduction
  9. UN-Water (n.d.). Transboundary Waters. https://www.unwater.org/water-facts/transboundary-waters


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