Wastewater can serve as an indicator of public health in the Netherlands. Many diseases that occur within a group of people can be detected in sewage. This includes infectious diseases such as COVID-19 (caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2) and non-infectious diseases. By examining sewage samples, we can also identify substances that tell us more about our lifestyle or living environment. Sewage research is useful and important, especially in conjunction with other forms of public health research.

Read more: wastewater research: how and why?


One of the ways to monitor the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is to measure the levels of virus particles in sewage. View the most recent measurement per sewage treatment plant here.
Find out more about COVID-19 in sewage research


Monkeypox is a viral infection that originally occurred primarily in West Africa and Central Africa. The disease has also been spreading in other parts of the world since the spring of 2022. Research carried out by the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) reveals that the DNA of the virus can also be found in sewage. 

Find out more about monkeypox in sewage research


Polio is a contagious disease that no longer occurs in the Netherlands. There is an initiative worldwide to eradicate polio. Sewage research is a good way to detect the poliovirus early. 

Find out more about polio in sewage research

Antimicrobial resistance

Bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics are increasingly common. Sewage research is a good way to detect these dangerous bacteria. 

Find out more about antimicrobial resistance in sewage research

Medicine residues

Sewage research can provide a clear picture of medicine use among the general population and give insight into the illegal market for medicines. Sewage research can also indicate the extent to which medicine residues are ending up in the environment.

Find out more about medicine residues in sewage research


From November 2023 until November 2024, RIVM and the Trimbos Institute will be monitoring traces of drugs in sewage. This is a national trial that will involve measurements to detect five types of drugs: cocaine, crystal meth, ecstasy, speed and (new) designer drugs. 

Find out more about drugs in sewage research

Future opportunities

Sewage research offers great potential for detecting diseases and specific substances. Working with the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and the regional water boards, RIVM is currently exploring whether sewage research will be expanded in the future.

Find out more about future opportunities of sewage research