Water Sector News & Trends

UC Berkeley Builds Pop-Up Waterwater lab to aid Local Public Health Agencies in COVID-19 Response

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The University of California, Berkeley set up a temporary laboratory where it is testing sewage water to spot signs of COVID-19 in the San Francisco Bay Area, the university announced last week. University leaders said the new high-throughput pop-up lab is helping health officials collect data on where the virus may be spreading, circumventing some of the limitations of testing people individually.

“From the very beginning of the pandemic, it was clear that there were major limitations to the ability to test every individual in a population frequently enough to find out whether they were infected or not,” Kara Nelson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at UC Berkeley, told Berkeley News. “Wastewater naturally pools the waste from hundreds to even millions of people in a single sample, so if you can collect a representative sample of wastewater and analyze it, you can gain a tremendous amount of information that you likely couldn’t gain through testing people individually.”