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The potential of effective microorganisms (EM) to restore water health

Innovations in water and health

by Ibo Zimmermann, Polytechnic of Namibia, [email protected] and Jan Labuschagne, Certified EM Distributor, P.O. Box 53, Gobabis, Namibia

Abstract EM is a consortium of different types of local microbes that support each other to outcompete pathogens. The principal types are lactic acid bacteria, yeasts and phototrophic bacteria. EM is easily produced by using diluted molasses to ferment either stock EM, obtainable from an EM distributor, or locally available vegetable wastes. EM helps to clean polluted water bodies. It is more effective if mixed with a porous carrier, such as bauxite or charcoal used in EM dumplings that get thrown into the water, or simply fermenting EM in sand, which then gets added to water, particularly in aquaculture. EM is also useful in treatment of waste water, where it can reduce pathogens, sludge, nitrogen, phosphate, H2S and costs, while increasing efficiency and the useful life of tanks and pipes. A case study will be presented from an integrated biosystem at Vryburg Abattoir in South Africa, where waste water gets pumped into an anaerobic pond and EM is added. The water then meanders through a reed bed into two successive aerobic ponds, in which fish are raised. The treated waste water gets used on site for irrigating fodder. The fodder gets fed to animals in the feedlot, which ensures a constant throughput of animals for slaughter. The EM is not only applied to the waste water, but is also sprayed around the abattoir for fly control, onto the earthworm farm for ant and disease control, onto the fodder plants for pest control, and fermented with blood to produce a high quality fertilizer.

Wastewater from abattoir, plus EM

Anaerobic pond

First aerobic pond

Second aerobic pond


The Polytechnic of Namibia intends to undertake participatory trials with EM under a wide diversity of uses. Applications of EM will be compared with untreated controls. Initial results will be presented, while some practical examples will be available for symposium participants to see, smell and touch.


Title: An example of an integrated biosystems

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Title: An example of an integrated biosystems