Wastewater surveillance for sars-cov-2 on college campuses: Initial efforts, lessons learned and research needs

Sasha Harris-Lovett, Kara L. Nelson, Paloma Beamer, Heather N. Bischel, Aaron Bivins, Andrea Bruder, Caitlyn Butler, Todd D. Camenisch, Susan K. De Long, Smruthi Karthikeyan, David A. Larsen, Katherine Meierdiercks, Paula J. Mouser, Sheree Pagsuyoin, Sarah M. Prasek, Tyler S. Radniecki, Jeffrey L. Ram, D. Keith Roper, Hannah Safford, Samendra P. SherchanWilliam Shuster, Thibault Stalder, Robert T. Wheeler, Katrina Smith Korfmacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


Wastewater surveillance for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is an emerging approach to help identify the risk of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) out-break. This tool can contribute to public health surveillance at both community (wastewater treatment system) and institutional (e.g., colleges, prisons, and nursing homes) scales. This paper ex-plores the successes, challenges, and lessons learned from initial wastewater surveillance efforts at colleges and university systems to inform future research, development and implementation. We present the experiences of 25 college and university systems in the United States that monitored campus wastewater for SARS-CoV-2 during the fall 2020 academic period. We describe the broad range of approaches, findings, resources, and impacts from these initial efforts. These institutions range in size, social and political geographies, and include both public and private institutions. Our analysis suggests that wastewater monitoring at colleges requires consideration of local information needs, sewage infrastructure, resources for sampling and analysis, college and community dynam-ics, approaches to interpretation and communication of results, and follow-up actions. Most colleges reported that a learning process of experimentation, evaluation, and adaptation was key to progress. This process requires ongoing collaboration among diverse stakeholders including decision-mak-ers, researchers, faculty, facilities staff, students, and community members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4455
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1 2021


  • COVID-19
  • Colleges and universities
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sewage
  • Wastewater surveillance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


Dive into the research topics of 'Wastewater surveillance for sars-cov-2 on college campuses: Initial efforts, lessons learned and research needs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this