The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted questions for the water supply and sanitation sector globally. The speed and extent of the spread of the pandemic has meant that answers to these questions have been needed quickly. While operators provide their services within a national context, scientific and operational concerns and insights are relevant across borders.
The International Water Association convened a Task Force (TF) from its membership early in 2020, to provide the sector with an authoritative reference point regarding both the relevant science and operational matters.
Issues for the Task Force
The aim of the IWA COVID-19 Task Force is to provide the international water sector with updates on state-of-the-art science, on the attributes of the virus, and any measures needed to protect both workers and public health.
Relevant topics include:
- Water supply (presence/persistence in water sources; the fate and inactivation of the virus during treatment, including disinfection).
- Wastewater monitoring (as a surrogate measure of the spread of the virus in communities).
- Public health (aerosol risk in buildings; water reuse & sludge reuse schemes).
- Worker health and safety (additional risk to water & wastewater services operations; effectiveness of existing health and safety measures).
- Risk analysis associated with maintaining service provision.
- Proactive customer engagement (communications on handwashing & water safety, financial difficulties associated with bill payments etc.).
Outputs and activities
Activities of the Task Force to date have included:
- Identifying resources to be included in IWA’s online COVID-19 reference page.
- Preparing a review of the relevant science in relation to the virus and wastewater.
- Delivering webinars on key topics.
- Hosting discussion forums to support sector dialogue.
- Networking and sharing experiences with others active in the area of COVID-19.
- Contributing to articles in the IWA magazine, The Source.
- Preparing guidance for water utilities on planning and response during the pandemic.
During 2020, the Task Force was chaired by Professor Joan Rose, supported by the IWA Secretariat. As of January 2021, the Task Force is co-chaired by Professor Banu Örmeci and Dr Sudhir Pillay.
The Task Force includes representatives from relevant IWA Specialist Groups (SGs). SG leaders were contacted to nominate a representative from their SG to participate in the Task Force.
Utility lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic
Supported by information and input provided by utilities, the IWA COVID-19 Task Force has prepared guidance on lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. The aim of the guidance is to capture best practices, so that lessons learned can be put in place during the next pandemic or epidemic phases, as well as during this pandemic. The Task Force sees that the experience gained during this type of emergency will also increase the capability of water and wastewater utilities to deal with a broad range of other future challenging circumstances.
For details of the IWA COVID-19 Task Force guidance, as well as specific utility examples, see the Information resources on water and COVID-19 page.
For more details of the IWA COVID-19 Task Force and how to connect with the IWA COVID-19 Task Force Interest Group, log in to IWA Connect and see here