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Water, sanitation, hygiene, and waste management

Source: Water, sanitation, hygiene, and waste management for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19

A: While persistence in drinking water is possible, there is no current evidence from surrogate human coronaviruses that they are present in surface or groundwater source water or transmitted through contaminated drinking water. The COVID-19 virus is an enveloped virus, with a fragile outer membrane. Generally, enveloped viruses are less stable in the environment and are more susceptible to oxidants, such as chlorine. While there is no evidence to date about survival of the COVID-19 virus in water or sewage, the virus is likely to become inactivated significantly faster than non-enveloped human enteric viruses with known waterborne transmission (such as adenoviruses, norovirus, rotavirus and hepatitis A).

A: The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking water supplies, and based on current evidence, the risk to water supplies is low. Laboratory studies of surrogate coronaviruses that took place in well-controlled environments indicated that the virus could remain infectious in water contaminated with feces for days to weeks. A number of measures can be taken to improve water safety, starting with protecting the source water; treating water at the point of distribution, collection or consumption; and ensuring that treated water is safely stored at home in regularly cleaned and covered containers.

Conventional, centralized water treatment methods that utilize filtration and disinfection should inactivate the COVID-19 virus. Other human coronaviruses have been shown to be sensitive to chlorination and disinfection with ultraviolet (UV) light. As enveloped viruses are surrounded by a lipid host cell membrane, which is not robust, the COVID-19 virus is likely to be more sensitive to chlorine and other oxidant disinfection processes than many other viruses, such as coxsackieviruses, which have a protein coat.

A: There is no evidence to date that the COVID-19 virus has been transmitted via sewerage systems with or without wastewater treatment. Furthermore, there is no evidence that sewage or wastewater treatment workers contracted severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which is caused by another type of coronavirus that caused a large outbreak of acute respiratory illness in 2003. As part of an integrated public health policy, wastewater carried in sewerage systems should be treated in well-designed and well-managed centralized wastewater treatment works. Each stage of treatment (as well as retention time and dilution) results in a further reduction of the potential risk.