How to Monitor Wastewater Ethically to Benefit Vulnerable Communities

How to Monitor Wastewater Ethically to Benefit Vulnerable Communities

Published: Dec 30, 2022
Publisher: The Rockefeller Foundation

Rolf U. Halden

Erin M. Driver

Rochelle Holm

Otakuye Conroy-Ben

Key Findings

Different, marginalized or underserved communities will have varying informational needs and concerns, but the following steps can improve the chances of successfully implementing wastewater-based epidemiology for vulnerable populations:

  • Determine the interest in and potential benefit of a future WBE campaign. The success and long-term sustainability will be greatest if the community fully supports and demonstrably benefits from the monitoring campaign.
  • Secure ample funding to perform the planned activities.
  • Identify and invite stakeholders and spokespersons into a working group to explore the need for focus groups, visioning exercises, and how to avoid or successfully manage potential sensitivities and issues.
  • Determine governance structures and obtain the necessary authorizations (for example, institutional review board review and approval), access to sanitation infrastructure, and data release strategies.
  • Convene a public forum to lay out the project, reporting, and anticipated benefits and risks in plain, accessible language, and invite comments on the planned approaches. Doing so helps to build trust, creates buy-in, and aligns stakeholder expectations.
  • Continuously share updates and documentation on data acquisition, data communication, and public health actions and benefits that might result from WBE activities.
  • List resources and organizations that can help create successful and durable partnerships (for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Wastewater Surveillance System, OneWaterOneHealth, and AquaVitas).

Implementing a wastewater-based-epidemiology monitoring system for vulnerable communities can be hugely beneficial but is not without risk. Yet, with proper planning, thorough community engagement, and tailored, continuous information exchange between all communities and entities involved, wastewater-based-epidemiology can be implemented and has been demonstrated to protect the health and interests of at-risk populations.

How do you apply evidence?

Take our quick four-question survey to help us curate evidence and insights that serve you.

Take our survey