What is the COVID-19 Wastewater Coalition?
The Canadian Coalition on Wastewater-Related COVID-19 Research is a national collaboration of municipalities, utilities, researchers, public health organizations and governments with the shared goal of advancing Canada’s ability to support decision-making for public health protection and surveillance in the face of COVID-19.
While countries are easing social restrictions and carefully restarting their economies, there is a global research effort to find the best ways to monitor the spread of COVID-19. By coordinating Canada’s wastewater research response, there is an opportunity to build on international knowledge, accelerate results and enable decision-makers to access the most complete information available regarding the prevalence and ongoing spread of this disease.
To help structure the COVID-19 Wastewater Coalition, Canadian Water Network created a framing of the wastewater research areas that can inform public health decision-making related to wastewater and SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This is illustrated in the Draft Wastewater Coalition Framework.
Advancing the Use of Wastewater-Based Epidemiology in a COVID-19 Era
As economic and social restrictions are eased following the initial wave of COVID-19 cases, the COVID-19 Wastewater Coalition is focused on advancing the knowledge and approaches needed to help monitor disease trends in communities and provide early detection of virus resurgence. This will enable more informed, targeted and localized public health responses to limit the scope of future impacts.
Wastewater-based epidemiology has been used for several years to identify and quantify the presence of drugs or disease agents in communities. Globally, emerging research suggests it could provide a useful indicator of community-based COVID-19. Wastewater-based epidemiology detects the genetic signature that signals the presence of COVID-19 within the community served by the sewer system. That composite community signature includes asymptomatic or sub-clinical cases, providing the potential to reflect the total presence of COVID-19. Results could augment clinical surveillance and potentially serve as an early warning for new waves of the disease.
National Proof-of-Concept Pilot
Given the urgency of the need and the rapid evolution of the global research, the COVID-19 Wastewater Coalition is advancing a national proof-of-concept pilot for wastewater-based surveillance of SARS-CoV-2. The goals of this pilot are to: 1) rapidly assess the ability for this technique to be usefully applied in Canada and 2) identify the key elements of the approach that would need to be built into a national surveillance program.
Canadian Water Network has appointed a National Research Advisory Group, chaired by internationally-recognized public health risk expert Dr. Steve E. Hrudey, to oversee the design of this program.
How to Get Involved
Municipalities, utilities, public health organizations, university teams and research labs are invited to sign on to the Wastewater Coalition. Canadian Water Network has outlined a set of guiding principles that participants agree to abide by when conducting activities that relate to the Wastewater Coalition.
COVID-19 Resources for Utilities
Canadian Water Network has curated a collection of online resources for water and wastewater utility managers during the COVID-19 pandemic that includes the latest science, regulatory guidance, business continuity planning and communications examples.