Monitoring SARS-CoV-2 presence and persistence in Australian sewerage networks

Monitoring SARS-CoV-2 presence and persistence in Australian sewerage networks

Sewage monitoring has been successfully used for some years to inform assessment of risk from enteric pathogens. The presence, persistence and occurrence patterns of the COVID-19 in the human population and the virus (SARS-CoV-2) in wastewater systems are yet to be established globally. WaterRA along with our members are happy to be able to facilitate this on a National scale with learning and partnerships.


WaterRA 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. 

Sewage monitoring has been successfully used for some years to monitor pathogen presence, persistence and occurrence patterns across Australia and internationally. Similar studies of chemical substance have also been undertaken. The information on pathogens is used to inform the assessment of risks from exposure to sewage by sewer workers and plumbers, to inform treatment requirements for sewage to be recycled and to assess public health risks from discharges to the environments. In addition, the information it used to assist tracking of disease patterns in the community, to help follow epidemic patterns and identify regional hotspots. The evidence is particularly useful in that the testing is non-invasive and doesn’t require patient sampling and it is able to be carried out systematically in a statistically sound manner over time. However, to date, the analyses have been undertaken with established enteric viruses, and not the COVID-19 virus.

The broad aims of this project are to attempt to:

a) help with the current pandemic incident, and

b) build capability for the next pandemic and smaller events of public health significance


Therefore, this project will develop, validate and apply methods for sewage monitoring to track and monitor COVID-19 virus presence and persistence in the Australian sewerage networks and population.

WaterRA will coordinate this national effort to understanding of COVID-19 and the associated virus (SARS-CoV-2) in our wastewater systems. As a part of this project research will be conducted in various states accross Australia.

Additional small components of the project is active liaison with:

  • researchers internationally, understood to be conducting research on sampling and analysis protocols and, validation of pathogen inactivation and disinfectants
  • Water Services Association Australia (WSAA) on the advice for wastewater workers and,
  • providing information from the project where relevant / useful to the WSAA Water Quality & Health Network and to Federal Government.

Thank you to all who have committed to collaborate or sent through proposals for future research.

Currently we are seeking funds and in-kind support from utilities and health departments to collaborate on this national project.

WaterRA Contact

To commit funds, in-kind and support for this project please email the WaterRA Research Manager(s)

Kelly Hill | Research Manager 

Arash Zamyadi | Research Manager 

Amount being sought

>$100k project (seeking contributions ~$40k)

Due Date

31st May, 2020