COVID-19 sewage monitoring helps manage pandemic

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Melbourne Water collaborated with a number of partners to alert authorities about potential clusters of people infected with the virus, and timelines of potential outbreaks. Read this case study to learn more.

Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities

Sustainable Development Goals:
Goal 11: Sustainable cities and communities


The Australia-wide ColoSSos Project (Collaboration on Sewage Surveillance of SARS-COV-2) aims to track and monitor the presence of the COVID-19 virus through a partnership coordinated by Water Research Australia. This includes 12 water utilities, six health departments and ten research organisations, and is also supported by the Water Services Association of Australia.

Research focus

The project has the potential to identify emerging or re-emergent outbreaks, better characterise the extent of asymptomatic infections and community transmission, identify the true peak in infected individuals (compared with confirmed cases) within a sewer catchment, and confirm ‘clearance’ of the COVID-19 virus from an area.

Sampling commenced at different sites across Melbourne and Australia at the same time a sensitive and accurate method was being identified. More than 1200 sewage samples have been taken since program began in April 2020, including from several Victorian sewage treatment plants (such as our Western and Eastern treatment plants), as well as a number of sewerage system hotspots.


This important initiative is in its early stages, but is a promising methodology that may yield important new information to help inform disease control measures, such as social distancing, to flatten the curve.

Last updated:
19 November 2021