Further information about Covid-19 and wastewater
Posted on 19th May 2020 at 15:10
We are living in a strange and somewhat worrying time. In amongst all of the quite sudden and necessary changes we have had to make to our day to day lives, from the social distancing to the staying home (or, should we now say “staying alert”?), a feeling of uncertainty has become quite the norm. Whether we’re wondering when this lockdown will end, when life will get back to normal or how to stay safe from Covid-19 as we navigate our way through these unpredictable times, we all have questions.
But, at a time when we want clear and relevant information, a lot of the messages and information we have received have been ambiguous and even confusing.
Covid-19 and Water
One particular example of this concerns Covid-19 and its relationship with water.
Recent remarks made by Boris Johnson in Parliament did, unintentionally, imply that Covid-19 could be present in the water supply. This really comes down to an error in communication – this all came from something the Prime Minister said in the House of Commons. Whilst referring to detecting the virus and trying to reduce the Rate of Infection, he mentioned the water supply. The relevant quote goes like this:
"The intention is that the covid alert system in time will be sufficiently sensitive and flexible so as to detect local flare ups, so that if for example the Covid is detected in the water supply of a certain town or whatever then steps can be taken, or in a school or whatever then, steps can be taken on the spot to deal with that flare up, to keep the R down locally as well as nationally."
The issue here is the wording; his aides did have to clarify the intention of the message. What was being referred to was the presence of Covid-19 in waste water, not treated water.
Research undertaken in the Netherlands across various treatment plants has suggested that waste water can be used to detect the presence of the virus in a population, even before the disease is reported in patients. One study, whose intentions were to “determine if SARS-CoV-2 is present in sewage during the emergence of COVID-19 in the Netherlands”, did detect evidence of COVD-19 (more specifically RNA traces) in sewage samples . It seems that this is a good indicator of the presence of COVID-19 in a population and it can determine whether COVID-19 is disappearing or returning.
This research was funded by KWR, an independent water research institute. It should be added that KWR themselves have been very clear and very open with the findings of this study. To fully validate these findings, KWR have stated that “KWR researchers would require a lot more measurements and data than we were able to produce in such a short period of time” but that it was important to share what they had to provide information as quickly as possible.
What does this mean?
So, we shouldn’t be panicking about Covid-19 in our drinking water, the water from your tap is still safe to drink.
Its presence in wastewater could be a very useful indicator in the future to determine its growth or decline in a population and it seems like it is a good idea for the Government to engage in testing at sewage plants to further monitor the progress of this virus. If we are to speculate, it does seem that this regionally-focused information could potentially inform the government in gauging the appropriate lockdown measurements in specific regions and continue to endeavor to do what is needed to keep us as safe as possible.
It has to be said that clear and effective communication is crucial at a time like this, and at the Pure Water People we pride ourselves not only on our superior water treatment systems, but on being able to provide the public with more information about water. It our most precious resource and it is important to have a good understanding of it.
Want to know more about your water?
If you want to know more about your water at home, book a free water test with us! As a company we are following all precautions to operate safely and to avoid risking any further spread of Covid-19 and we are, as always, willing to give you a better understanding of your water at home. So, don’t hesitate if you want to know more.
Share this post: