Water and Climate Change


The Future and Public Interest


Dr. Isabel Seifert-Dähnn, Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA)

Dr. Suruchi Bhadwal, The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), New Delhi

Dr. Ragini Macaden, St. John’s medical College, Bangalore


  1. Dias A, Dhawde  R,  Surve N, Weinberg A, Birdi T, Mistry N.  Impact of climate changes on water availability and quality in the state of Maharashtra in Western India. AJMBES., 2015, In Press.

Future studies

Study of antibiotic resistance pattern of E. coli from water sources along the Mula-Mutha river, Pune district and the potential of horizontal gene transfer in the propagation of antibiotic resistance

The increased and indiscriminate use of antibiotics for treating infectious diseases, animal husbandry and aquaculture practices has caused emergence of resistance among coliforms. Additionally, wastes from hospitals, municipalities and agriculture generate selective pressures that further contribute to development of antibiotic resistance. Thus, antibiotics are emerging as environmental contaminants responsible for pollution of rivers. Ecological studies confirm that antibiotic resistance is becoming a worldwide problem in the ecosystem and antibiotic resistant bacteria are increasing in riverine water.

The antibiotic resistance genes are associated with highly mobile genetic elements like plasmids, transposons, integrons transmitting drug resistance through horizontal gene transfer (HGT) from bacterial communities in the same generation. It has been demonstrated that 10% - 16% of the E. coli genes migrate via horizontal gene transfer. This is of major concern from the public health point of view as it can spread drug resistance.

The study will be undertaken in 6 villages along the Mula-Mutha riverbank. Water from the river, drinking water sources and household water will be checked drug resistant E. coli and representative colonies for the presence of integrons. In a pilot study, sampling was undertaken in 2 villages, situated one each, upstream and downstream of Pune city. The samples were collected from the representative open wells and rivers in these villages. It was noted that antibiotic resistant bacteria were present in the river water samples from both points.

Issues of Public Interest

Many areas of Maharashtra, particularly the drylands, currently face issues relating to supply and quality. These factors put a tremendous pressure on water resources and affect many sectors including human health, agriculture and ecosystems. In addition, the stresses are likely to be exacerbated by climate change, which makes the impact of climate change on water availability an important aspect.

The project involves assessing water quality and studying the influence of weather conditions in selected villages in Pune and Satara districts.

Cumulatively the data revealed better quality of water during the post monsoon as compared to the other seasons. The quality of water was better in borewells and storage tanks compared to open wells. The high bacterial load in open wells due to poor sanitation and irregular chlorination practices highlights the need for community education to inculcate better sanitation practices and application of peer pressures to enforce regular chlorination. The study has been extended to identify sociological determinants that affect household practices for storage and utilization of drinking water and correlate them with the bacteriological load detected in the household drinking water.

Additionally, water from the river, drinking water sources and household water will be checked antibiotic resistant indicator bacteria. In a pilot study, water samples were collected from households, open well and river in two representative villages. It was noted that antibiotic resistant bacteria were present in the water samples from these points. The presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in water bodies and their ability to transfer their resistance to other disease causing bacteria is a major public health concern. The spread of antibiotic resistance would hamper treatment and increase the cost for patients.

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