SARS-CoV-2 in raw water?

Monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses in raw water and studies on the behavior of enveloped and non-enveloped viruses in drinking water treatment

In the current pandemic situation, also the question of the safety of drinking water with regard to the novel coronavirus arises. Although theoretical considerations suggest that a spread of SARS-CoV-2 via the drinking water path is highly unlikely, currently data on the spread of the virus in the aquatic environment is are limited. Corresponding data are to be obtained within the scope of this project.

Since it has been known that some most SARS-CoV-2 infected persons excrete the virus with their faeces, there has been a fear that the virus will be introduced into the aquatic environment via the wastewater path and thus also into the water used for drinking water production. Based on the findings of a literature study conducted by us, the spread of SARS-CoV-2 via drinking water can be classified as extremely unlikely. However, this conclusion is not based on monitoring data but on theoretical considerations.

The detection of the virus is in most cases based on the detection of nucleic acid and does not allow differentiation between infectious and non-infectious viruses. Within the scope of the project, the molecular biological methods will be improved and adapted to the matrix raw water so that they allow a sensitive detection of intact viruses in a large sample volume. Interlaboratory comparisons will be performed to provide information on the degree of reproducibility and the robustness of the detection method. The optimized methods will be used for raw water monitoring. After the selection of suitable surrogate viruses, comparative experiments on the behaviour of enveloped and non-enveloped viruses in drinking water treatment will be carried out.

The monitoring of surface and ground water as well as the proof of good removability in treatment will help to gain important data for discussion in a critical setting.


Stange C., Ho J., Tiehm A.: Nachweisverfahren und Relevanz von SARS-Coronavirus-2 in der Wasserwirtschaft. KA Korrespondenz Abwasser, Abfall 68, 1: 29–39 (2021)

Stange C., Ho J., Tiehm A.SARS-CoV-2 im Kontext der Wasserversorgung. DVGW energie | wasser-praxis (EWP), 12/2020: 50–55 (2020)

Stange C., Ho J., Tiehm A.SARS-CoV-2 im Kontext der Wasserversorgung. Veröffentlichungen aus dem Technologiezentrum Wasser, ISSN 1434-5765, TZW-Band 93 (2020)

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