Summary of the Watershare Webinar on COVID-19 in the water sector

Thank you to all 887 people who joined us for the webinar and to our two experts on the topic. This was an extraordinary webinar on an important topic, and together the team at KWR was able to prepare and deliver successfully within 5 days!

Thank you to all who helped organise and to all those who participated. A web page with the Q&A questions from the webinar will be created shortly and shared – Hold tight!

The KWR Microbiology team released their publication on the current research and reports, and this can be found open access here.

Webinar Summary

Prof. Dragan Savic, FReng CEO KWR opened the webinar and introduced experts, Rosina Girones, Research Group Leader at the University of Barcelona, and Prof. Gertjan Medema, Principle Microbiologist at KWR, who shared their key insights on the virus.

Topics covered:

  • What we know about the virus (SARS-CoV-2) and other viruses;
  • What current research has shown for SARS-CoV-2 stability and infectivity in feces, sewage and water;
  • If transmission is likely via feces, water and the urban water cycle;
  • Current research of SARS-CoV-2 in sewage (influent) in the Netherlands, which aims to complement monitoring of the spread of the virus by public health authorities;
  • Safety of sewage plant workers in relation to what we know about infectivity rates of the virus; and
  • Safety of drinking water.

Rosina and Gertjan confirmed based on the current research and data (in some cases limited):

  • SARS-CoV 2 (from limited data) is sensitive to disinfectants and high temperatures;
  • It is expected that the new coronavirus would be less abundant asan infectious virus in sewage than known enteric viruses and less stable in currently applied water treatments in WWTP or DWTP;
  • Drinking water systems are safe, based on years of research and knowledge on other viruses that are more robust than SARS-CoV-2;
  • SARS-CoV-2 is not an important waterborne pathogen, the primary route of transmission is in air droplets through coughing and sneezing and contact with contaminated surfaces. As a result of this and with no epidemiological signals that sewage workers are at risk, the risk of SARSCoV-2 transmission via sewage is considered low and current protective measures for these workers are safe;
  • Monitoring the virus in sewage is very sensitive. In the Netherlands, the virus could be detected with only 82 cases reported by the health authorities in the country. It is likely that the virus was already circulating and the health surveillance did not pick up the mild cases.

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