"In a crisis, be aware of the danger - but recognize the opportunity.”
John F. Kennedy
As the COVID-19 disease continues its unstoppable spread across the globe, more and more scientists are calling for more research to understand whether water treatment methods kill the virus responsible for the pandemic.
This week, two of them, Haizhou Liu, an associate professor of chemical and environmental engineering at the University of California, Riverside; and Professor Vincenzo Naddeo, director of the Sanitary Environmental Engineering Division at University of Salerno, signed an editorial for Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, a leading environmental journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry in the United Kingdom, calling for more testing to determine whether water treatment methods are effective in killing SARS-CoV-2 and coronaviruses in general. In Liu's words: “The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlights the urgent need for a careful evaluation of the fate and control of this contagious virus in the environment. Environmental engineers like us are well positioned to apply our expertise to address these needs with international collaborations to protect public health. ”
Another avenue that is open for the water industry is the early detection of the virus. Researchers at Cranfield University are working on a new test to detect SARS-CoV-2 in the wastewater of communities infected with the virus. Dr Zhugen Yang, Lecturer in Sensor Technology at Cranfield Water Science Institute, said: “In the case of asymptomatic infections in the community or when people are not sure whether they are infected or not, real-time community sewage detection through paper analytical devices could determine whether there are COVID-19 carriers in an area to enable rapid screening, quarantine and prevention. "
Meanwhile, in the United States, researchers at the University of Arizona Water and Energy Sustainable Technology Center are testing wastewater across the country to trace coronavirus prevalence in communities and help public health officials better prepare for the future. "Testing the wastewater gives you an idea of the number of cases within a community and if the numbers are increasing or decreasing," said Ian Pepper, director of the WEST Center and a BIO5 Institute member.
And this crisis, in addition to reminding us of the importance of resilient water services, will also open up opportunities for those who know how to respond to the new challenges we are facing. It is not a time to hide, but to find solutions to an unprecedented situation. I am sure that the water sector will be up to it.