The Role of Wastewater Data in Pandemic Management
Associated Project

Translating Wastewater Data into Public Health Action

Time frame: 2021– 2023

Prepared for:

The Rockefeller Foundation


Ruchir N. Karmali

Tessa Huffman

Megan B. Diamond

Key Findings
  • Wastewater data influenced pandemic management for roughly half of agencies with surveillance in place, informing decisions to coordinate response with other agencies, tailor communications to the public, and target clinical testing.
  • Partnerships with a local lab and utility and having buy-in from state or local government were the most common factors contributing to the success of wastewater surveillance programs.
  • Only 7% of local agencies that had not monitored wastewater have what they need to begin doing so; lack of internal staff capacity was the most common barrier, and more rural than non-rural agencies reported barriers to implementation.
  • To date, 92% of state and 38% of local agencies surveyed had monitored wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 at some point during the pandemic; going forward, 66% of state and 21% of local agencies said they are likely to monitor their wastewater after the pandemic wanes.

To assess the role of wastewater data in pandemic management, Mathematica and The Rockefeller Foundation conducted a survey of state, local, territorial, and tribal public health officials who lead or support pandemic management decision making at their agency. The survey assessed five domains: (1) factors influencing pandemic management decisions and actions; (2) the landscape of wastewater surveillance in respondents’ jurisdictions; (3) barriers, supports, and capacity for wastewater surveillance; (4) awareness and value of wastewater data; and (5) future interest in wastewater monitoring for public health. The brief summarizes the responses from leaders representing a diverse sample of 12 state and 194 local public health agencies.

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