California Wastewater Utilities Participating in COVID-19 Sewer Surveillance

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Photo by Paul Cockrell

Testing wastewater for RNA strands of the coronavirus might tell local officials how widespread COVID-19 is in their community and whether infections are rising or falling. Known as “sewer survelliance” or “wastewater epidemiology” – wastewater professionals are once again working to protect public health.

An important note – finding coronavirus RNA in wastewater does not mean it is infectious virus. According to WEF, the scientific community has found no evidence of viable COVID-19 virus in wastewater systems.

According to the LA Times:

From Stanford to the University of Arizona, from Australia to Paris, teams of researchers have been ramping up wastewater analyses to track the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Initial studies show that sewage monitoring, or “wastewater-based-epidemiology,” could not only tell us how much the virus might actually be spreading in a community — but also when the virus has finally gone away.

Here’s what the NY Times had to say about wastewater epidemiology:

Now some scientists are looking for the virus not in our blood or spit, but somewhere else: in our sewers.

“It’s the signature of a whole community,” said Krista Wigginton, an environmental engineer at the University of Michigan who has been finding the coronavirus in wastewater around the Bay Area in California.

Utilities Participating

Here are the utilities we know of. If you’re utility is participating in COVID-19 sewer surveillance please email us.

  • Carmel Area Wastewater District
  • City of Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment
  • East Bay MUD – working with researchers at Stanford University and University of Arizona
  • Irvine Ranch Water District
  • Orange County Sanitation District
  • Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District – working with researchers at Stanford University, University of Arizona and UC Davis
  • South Orange County Wastewater Authority


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