Testing Municipal Wastewater to Flexibly Monitor Health and Safety

Publisher: Washington, DC: Mathematica
Mar 25, 2020
Aparna Keshaviah, Cindy Hu, and Marisa Henry

Key Findings:

When combined with data on prescriptions filled at local pharmacies, drug overdose calls to emergency medical services, and drug seizures by law enforcement, wastewater testing can yield insights into:

  • the extent of black-market activity, 
  • policing impact on community drug use, and
  • where and when drug overdoses might occur

Municipal wastewater testing is an innovative approach that can be used alongside national and local data sources to provide cost-effective and objective measures of drug use in near real-time. Mathematica has been working with public health, safety, and water monitoring officials in Montana, Wisconsin, and Tennessee to analyze:

  • Snapshots of the mix of drugs being used to provide a warning on new drug threats
  • Trends in drug use over time, which can be used to evaluate program effectiveness
  • Hotspots of drug use, which offers a data-driven strategy to target resources
  • The value of unbiased, scalable community health measures for policymaking