News May 5, 2020

Jacobs Piloting Program to Monitor COVID-19 Spread in Community Wastewater Streams

In an effort to better understand the spread of COVID-19, our Digital Solutions, Water and Operations Management and Facilities Services teams are launching a pilot program to monitor wastewater streams at locations where we operate plants.

Wastewater Streams

Communities around the world are struggling to understand the true spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus now. While testing is occurring at an increased rate, it’s extremely difficult to get to a sufficiently high testing level to help drive what’s next: decisions about reopening businesses, relaxing physical distancing policies and returning to the places we live, work and play.

Groundbreaking research in Europe and other locations suggests that monitoring a community’s wastewater stream can provide a measure on how widespread the outbreak is.

At Jacobs, we operate almost 100 wastewater systems across North America, with our Operations Management and Facilities Services (OMFS) teams serving as daily front-line supporters of environmental sustainability and public health as wastewater is treated and safely returned to the environment. 

And, like so many around the globe, we want to help and are continuously looking for innovative and creative ways to make an impact during this public health crisis.

We realized that through a simple addition in the regulatory sampling procedure we’re already conducting at our facilities, we could easily collect samples for analysis and leverage a correlation model to help quantify the extent of the population impacted by the virus and provide decision makers with a more encompassing data set to inform critical decisions.

So, that’s exactly what we’re doing now:

At approximately 70 locations where we operate wastewater facilities – initially those in the U.S. – our Water, Digital Solutions and OMFS teams are launching a pilot program to monitor wastewater streams to help our clients understand the impacts and spread of COVID-19 within their communities.

The advent of genetic testing techniques, coupled with the fact that sampling of raw wastewater is a routine activity carried out by our operators, can allow for tracking the presence of the virus in raw wastewater which can be correlated with public health and epidemiological data.

In addition to sampling at the treatment plant, which will provide a general indication of the prevalence of the disease to the population that the facility serves, sampling could be expanded to the collection system, providing more specific locations of potential disease hotspots.

We’re also exploring additional partnerships to provide more rapid, accurate testing, early warning systems, sensor technologies and predictive models. These additional tools will aid in the fight against COVID-19 now and potentially minimize public health and economic consequences of future outbreaks – helping our clients and communities prepare for what’s next.

Looking for more Bright Spots to lighten your day? Visit