The Water Research Foundation Announces New COVID-19 Research Effort ​​​​​​​

May 12, 2020
Press Release

As an immediate follow-on to the Virtual International Water Research Summit on Environmental Surveillance of COVID-19 Indicators in Sewersheds, The Water Research Foundation will release Requests for Qualifications (RFQs) and seek funding partners to accelerate research in three key areas: 


Interlaboratory and Methods Assessment 

Currently, no standard methods have been established for the detection of the genetic fingerprint of COVID-19 in water or wastewater. While environmental surveillance of sewersheds holds significant promise as a near-term indicator of community-level trends of COVID-19, this information will be most useful for public health decision makers if it can be repeated and compared across different laboratories that are analyzing samples.  This research will engage several laboratories to determine: 

  • Which methods produce the most reliable results for analyzing the genetic fingerprint of COVID-19 

  • The extent to which laboratories are able to reproduce sample results 


Stability of Genetic Signal in Wastewater Matrix 

This research seeks to identify potential changes in the genetic fingerprint of COVID-19 as it travels through sewer systems. This research will address: 

  • Dilution of the genetic signal in sewage 

  • Loss of the genetic fingerprint while in transit in the collection system due to adsorption and degradation 

  • Loss of the genetic fingerprint due to interference from other wastewater constituents 

  • Effect of the wastewater treatment process on the genetic signal 


Impact of Storage and Pre-Treatment Methods on Signal Strength 

Several pretreatment methods have been utilized to protect wastewater workers or to preserve samples for future analysis. The objective of this research will be to identify the effect of the following pre-treatments on genetic fingerprint strength: 

  • Heating wastewater samples to inactivate potentially live virus  

  • Addition of chemicals to inactivate potentially viable pathogens in the wastewater samples 

  • Storage of samples at 4°C, -20°C, -40°C, -80°C. 


The Water Research Foundation is actively seeking partners to leverage our investment in this research, and we anticipate posting the first RFQ in the coming weeks. Check the RFQ section of Open RFPs for more information.

About WRF

The Water Research Foundation (WRF) is the leading not-for-profit research cooperative that advances the science of water to protect public health and the environment. Governed by utilities, WRF delivers scientifically sound research solutions and knowledge to serve our subscribers and stakeholders in all areas of drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, and reuse.