COVID-19 Water Monitoring Concerns

Several monitors have asked if they should continue monitoring their sites amid the COVID-19 outbreak. As we know, anytime you participate in water-based activities there are risks for injury and sickness. AWW does its best to provide volunteers with guidance that will hopefully prevent such issues. In an effort to include the newest threats to health, we have reviewed the current information provided by the CDC related to Water Transmission and COVID-19.

One concern related to the virus is the potential for contracting COVID-19 through contact with water that has high levels of fecal contamination. The CDC addresses this concern as follows:

“The virus that causes COVID-19 has been detected in the feces of some patients diagnosed with COVID-19. The amount of virus released from the body (shed) in stool, how long the virus is shed, and whether the virus in stool is infectious are not known.

The risk of transmission of COVID-19 from the feces of an infected person is also unknown. However, the risk is expected to be low based on data from previous outbreaks of related coronaviruses, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). There have been no reports of fecal-oral transmission of COVID-19 to date.
Can the COVID-19 virus spread through sewerage systems?
CDC is reviewing all data on COVID-19 transmission as information becomes available. At this time, the risk of transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19 through sewerage systems is thought to be low. Although transmission of COVID-19 through sewage may be possible, there is no evidence to date that this has occurred. This guidance will be updated as necessary as new evidence is assessed.”

Please use this information and consider your personal health status and the typical condition of the stream you monitor, to determine if it is in your best interest to monitor. In addition, you may want to use additional protection measures such as latex gloves to collect your sample.

Remember the AWW Safety suggestions for monitoring at all times:

Keep a first aid kit close at hand in case of accidents.

·       Be especially careful when sampling sites that are highly contaminated. Consider using gloves.

·       Avoid sampling during lightning storms, heavy rain or during high water events.

·       Do not touch your face and eyes during and after water sampling  

·       Use hand sanitizer in the field and wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after working in stream or other waterbody.

Furthermore, if you typically monitor in a team or share monitoring materials with others in your group, you may want to reconsider those practices in consideration of social distancing. If you monitor in a public place such as a park, make sure you keep the suggested 6 foot distance between you and others.

Some studies have suggested that the virus could be detected hours or days on certain surfaces. For this reason, you may also want to rethink sharing materials with other volunteers at this time.

Please take care of yourself and others during this uncertain time! Your health is our priority!