The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting questions for the water supply and sanitation sector globally. The speed and extent of the spread of the pandemic means that answers to these questions are 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 is convening a Task Force (TF) from its membership, to provide the sector with an authoritative reference point regarding both the relevant science and operational matters.
Issues to be addressed by Task Force
The intention of the IWA COVID-19 TF is to provide the international water sector, with state-of-the-art science (as it becomes available), on the attributions of this virus and any measures needed to protect both workers and public health.
Topics that will be considered 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.).
Potential outputs and activities
Anticipated and potential outputs and activities include:
- Identifying resources to be included in IWA’s online COVID-19 reference page(s).
- Preparing authoritative White Papers/fact sheets to provide an international reference point for national governments, regulators, utility associations and individual utilities.
- Deliver webinars on key topics.
- Host discussion forums to support sector dialogue.
- Synthesise key aspects on the IWA website.
The TF will be chaired by Professor Joan Rose, who will be supported by the IWA Secretariat.
The TF will include representatives from relevant Specialist Groups (SGs). SG leaders will be contacted to nominate a representative from their SG to participate in the TF.
It is anticipated that the IWA COVID-19 TF will be active over the coming 6-12 months (from April 2020 onwards). The extent of participation required will be guided by the scope of activities agreed upon and will depend upon the willingness and availability of participants. It is anticipated that there will be ad-hoc remote participation while the TF remains active.