Microbiology Is ... Safe Drinking Water

Feb. 2, 2021

ASM member Bob Metcalf explains why microbiology is important to ensure safe drinking water, and describes his collaboration with Friends Of The Old in Lower Nyakach, Kenya.

What's the Issue?

In 2010, the United Nations General Assembly recognized "the right of every human being to have access to enough water for personal and domestic uses," and established as one of its 2030 Sustainable Development Goals to "ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all." Unfortunately, according to the World Health Organization, approximately 2.2 billion people worldwide still lack regular access to safe drinking water. Escherichia coli from fecal matter is the major contaminant found in unsafe water sources, resulting in nearly 1000 child deaths daily from diarrheal diseases. Access to proper water treatment infrastructure and technology is hampered by high costs and institutional inertia. Moreover, the burden of obtaining potable water falls primarily on girls and women, which reduces their access to education and employment opportunities.

How To Get Involved?

Because the issue of water safety is, at its heart, a microbiological one, members of ASM are well-positioned to help contribute to the solution by using their expertise and ingenuity. Check out the links below to see examples of how you can get involved.

About Bob Metcalf

Bob Metcalf, Ph.D., is professor emeritus at California State University, Sacramento. He is co-founder and president of the International Water and Health Alliances, and has worked with the Friends Of The Old project in Kenya since 2004. He is a passionate educator and advocate for microbiology.


About the "Microbiology Is ..." Project

The “Microbiology Is ...” project is a new series from ASM in which we’ll highlight how microbiologists around the world work with local, national and international partners to apply laboratory research to real-world issues that directly affect individuals and communities. From the obvious (antibiotics, safe drinking water) to the obscure (wine production), we’ll cover the entire spectrum of applications for microbiology. Through these stories, we want to showcase the human side of science and the true impact microbiology has on society. Hopefully, we’ll also be able to inspire more microbiologists to bring their work out of the lab and into their local communities. Because ultimately, microbiology is for everyone.


Author: Geoff Hunt, Ph.D.

Geoff Hunt, Ph.D.
Geoff Hunt, Ph.D., is the Public Outreach Specialist at the American Society for Microbiology.