COVID-19 Community of Interest

COVID-19 is an unprecedented event across the globe and significant investigation and research is needed to find solutions to this issue. Our COVID-19 CoI is the central place for water utilities to stay up-to-date with COVID-19 implications for the water sector. 

ColoSSoS, our COVID-19 national research initiative                                                                                         ColoSSoS Project Phases

Water Research Australia is leading an innovative, and collaborative Australia-wide investigation that aims to integrate reliable results of sewage testing for the SARS-CoV-2 virus with health data for COVID-19 on a national basis.

The ColoSSoS Project – Collaboration on Sewage Surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 – will track and monitor the presence of the virus that causes COVID-19 and its persistence in the Australian sewerage network, thus providing information on where it is present in the population.

Working with national experts in health, microbiology, laboratory testing, wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) and policy communication, the initiative is a major collaborative effort across water utilities, health departments and researchers, with links to global expertise through the Global Water Research Coalition and The Water Research Foundation in the US.

The immediate practical application of project findings could be used to inform policy regarding tightening or loosening of disease control measures such as limits on gatherings and travel, and to enable effective targeting of investment and pandemic control efforts.

Water Research Australia is working with all state and territory health authorities through the Environmental Health Standing Committee (enHealth) to ensure that project results can readily inform national COVID-19 control efforts.

ColoSSoS project outcomes

  • Information generated on community-wide prevalence of COVID-19 using sewage testing surveillance is being integrated with health data (testing of individuals and hospital cases) as a tool to assist governments to determine the incidence of disease and the impact of changes to physical distancing and a range of other restrictions.
  • The project is supporting metropolitan, rural and remote communities, as well as disadvantaged and at-risk communities where health infrastructure is limited with the aim of assisting governments to best target their response efforts and investment.
  • A routine approach to sewage surveillance for pathogens has been developed and is being refined in order to provide an early-warning system enabling governments to implement response actions more quickly and efficiently.
  • If desired, the protocols and know-how generated by ColoSSoS can be used by the Australian Government to support neighbouring developing countries in their response to COVID-19.

Work on ColoSSoS is well underway with many water utilities, research organisations and all health departments, committed to the cause.

For further information on the ColoSSoS Project please contact Project Managers Dan Deere or Kelly Hill.


Read more about, and download research from the ColoSSoS Project 



What is COVID-19?

Coronaviruses are a large and diverse family of enveloped RNA viruses. These lipid-enveloped CoV viruses are generally considered more fragile than other viruses (both environmentally, and to disinfection), however are known to cause illness of variable severity in humans, including the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS-CoV), and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). The name ‘corona’ comes from their round appearance and the spikes on their surface that can be likened to a solar corona.

Implications for the water sector

Some coronaviruses can potentially survive in the gastrointestinal tract and be spread by the ‘faecal-oral’ route or via inhalation of contaminated wastewater droplets. There have not been reports of faecal-oral transmission of COVID-19 to date.

Studies have indicated that the virus is not able to survive for long in wastewater due to the nature of its physical structure. Furthermore, nasal secretions are found in wastewater (e.g. due to flushing of tissues) and most likely SARS-CoV-2 will enter wastewater systems. To date, only inactive fragments of the virus have been dtected in wastewater systems. 

Our broader COVID-19 response

  • Leading a national research initiative, Collaboraiton on Sewage Surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 (ColoSSoS Project), to understand the impacts of COVID-19 and the associated virus (SARS-CoV-2) on our wastewater systems. 
  • WaterRA is a member of an international group led by the Global Water Research Coalition to share information across the globe.
  • WaterRA has developed a factsheet to help utilities understand the implications of COVID-19 on water and wastewater.
  • WaterRA has facilitated an online Community of Interest (CoI) to share information and provide avenues for collaboration.


Media links 

Already part of the COVID-19 national research initiative?

Click here to access the ColoSSoS Project page for members.