Wastewater Surveillance

Wastewater Based Epidemiology


Researchers have long known that wastewater can provide a window into the health of the community. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, researchers across the country quickly mobilized and partnered with wastewater agencies including EBMUD.

Whereas a typical coronavirus test provides results for one person, sampling wastewater for the presence of COVID-19 provides an assessment for a larger community. The results are a leading indicator of the status of the pandemic because infected individuals shed the virus in poop even before they show symptoms.

Since its start, EBMUD has been part of “Wastewater Epidemiology for the Bay Area,” a group which brings together wastewater utilities, public health officers, and laboratories to analyze Bay Area wastewater samples. EBMUD, along with wastewater utilities nationwide, has also contributed to a US Department of Health and Human Services sampling program, which provided weekly results to public health officials. This data helps public health and medical experts make important logistical and policy decisions regarding public health resources, shelter-in-place orders and educational outreach.

EBMUD is continuing to support this work by collecting influent and primary sludge samples three times per week for analysis by public and private laboratories. The results of these are available for public view at the following locations:

California Department of Public Health – California Surveillance of Wastewater Systems (Cal-SuWers)

Sewer Coronavirus Alert Network (SCAN) – powered by Verily

EBMUD is continuing to collaborate with public health officials and is following the latest developments on emerging areas of interest including the identification of poliovirus in wastewater. The centers for disease control and prevention (CDC) is proceeding cautiously. In late September, the CDC requested the wastewater surveillance partners to pause implementation of poliovirus surveillance in wastewater while further guidance on testing, containment procedures, and public health responses are developed. The Water Environment Federation also issued guidance in September advising the same. EBMUD will continue to work closely with public health partners and will provide wastewater samples once they are ready to begin analyzing for poliovirus.