22 March World Water Day 2020: Clean safe water for everyone, even in a changing climate
This year, World Water Day takes place under unprecedented circumstances: the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The UNUnited Nations calls upon everyone to focus on responsibility, safety and solidarity. Everyone has a role to play. This touches the very essence of the work being done at RIVMNational Institute for Public Health and the Environment by Prof. Ana Maria de Roda Husman, Director of the Collaborating Centre for Risk Assessment of Pathogens in Food and Water. Read more in this interview.
In December 2019, an outbreak of a novel coronavirus also called coronavirus disease (COVID-19) began in the Wuhan region in China. The novel coronavirus has spread globally and has also emerged in the Netherlands. The primary means of transmission is via droplets that are released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It has recently been reported that some patients experience diarrhoea and that the novel coronavirus can be found in faeces of some infected people. Whether COVID-19 virus is also excreted via urine is still unclear.
That is why RIVM’s Centre for Infectious Disease Control, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Foundation for Applied Water Research (STOWA), has formulated an additional advice on working safely with wastewater and surface water (WaSH). With regard to the COVID-19 virus, the advice does not deviate from regular hygiene regulations.
What does RIVM’s WHO collaborating centre for risk assessment of pathogens in food and water do?
As a collaborating centre for the World Health Organization (WHO CC for risk assessment of pathogens in food and water), RIVM has contributed to formulating advice on the COVID-19 virus and safe water, sanitation and hygiene practices, and on Q&A’s for such best practices. Recently it became clear that some patients abroad, mainly in China, experience diarrhoea. The novel coronavirus has been found in faeces of some patients. This means that the virus could also end up in wastewater. The chance that the virus is currently present in Dutch wastewater is very small.
WHO publication technical brief 'Water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management for COVID-19'. The technical brief is written in particular for water and sanitation practitioners and providers. It is also for health care providers who want to know more about water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) risks and practices.
February 2020: Follow-up training on Climate Resilient Water Safety Plan by RIVM for Nakuru County water service providers in Kenya.
From 10-14 February, Fabio Martins Gueth (RIVM) provided a follow-up training on Climate Resilient Water Safety Planning for the water & sanitation service providers of the Nakuru County in Kenya. The training workshop is part of the Nakuru’s WaterWorX Project, led by VEI. After getting acquainted with the water safety plan framework during the first training in October 2019, the participants started gathering the needed information to develop a water safety plan. This training aimed at scrutinizing the gathered information as well as identifying information/knowledge gaps in order to develop a comprehensive water safety plan. In addition, the participants exercised with the risk assessment for the identified risks for the drinking water supply, which highlighted the challenges the urban and rural water service providers face in developing their water safety plan.
From 13 – 16 January, Ana Maria de Roda Husman and Harold van den Berg provided a training workshop on drinking water quality from source to tap for the water supply of Mandalay City Development Committee (MCDC), Myanmar. The training workshop is part of the Mandalay’s WaterWorX Project, led by VEI. The objective was to sensitise personnel from MCDC for possible risks for the drinking water supply from source to tap, such as sanitation, hygiene and climate change.
During the training, information was given on global changes, such as climate change, which affects drinking water quality. By giving examples of such effects and introducing exercises the participants receive experiences with the need for assessment to identify current and future risks for the drinking water supply. Local hazards and developments such as climate change and infectious diseases in the country and region broadened the scope of the participants. Two booster pumping stations were visited, and possible risks were discussed in exercises during the training workshop.
November 2019: Fifth Meeting of the Parties of the Protocol on Water and Health, Belgrade, Serbia; WHO CC and the Dutch delegation delivered extensive contributions
On 19-21 November 2019, the fifth tri-annual meeting of the parties (MoP) of the Protocol on Water and Health (PoWH) to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes took place in Belgrade, Serbia. Anoek Backx from RIVM was part of the Dutch delegation, together with Jan Busstra (for the high-level session) and Jelka Appelman (Dutch PoWH focal point and member of the Bureau of the PoWH) both from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W) and Prof. Ana Maria de Roda Husman (RIVM) represented the WHO CC for Risk Assessment of Pathogens from Water and Food. The WHO CC collaborates with I&W on the Dutch contributions under the PoWH.
The Netherlands co-leads with Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH) Work Area 5 under the Protocol on Safe and Efficient Management of Water Supply and Sanitation Systems and collaborates in other Work Areas (WA2 Prevention and reduction of Water-related diseases; 4 Small water supplies and sanitation; 7 Increasing resilience to climate change). During the MoP the co-leads jointly reported on the work carried out and achieved under working programme 2016-2019 and outlined the future work under working programme 2020-2022. Highlighted were the trainings provided to several countries in Water and Sanitation Safety Planning (WSP and SSP) and the work done to map the scope of sanitation systems in the pan-European region and bring the importance of ameliorating health-improving sanitation under the attention of policymakers. Future work will focus on further integration of climate resilience into WSP and SSP and on advocacy for sanitation improvements throughout the region.
The high-level session addressed the role of the PoWH as an instrument in realizing the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The water-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG6 and SDG3 among others in particular) also help countries that already have sound systems and management in place, to integrate and implement approaches addressing new challenges, f.i. linked to the changing climate and related extreme weather events. The high-level panel members stressed the importance of continuing international (transboundary) and multi- or cross-disciplinary collaborations for the benefit of mutual exchange and the joint initiation of actions.
During the MoP, nine side-events took place to allow for more in-depth content discussions and explorations. The Netherlands organized and chaired the side-event Climate-resilient water and sanitation safety planning and did this together with Italy, BiH and Romania. Moderator of the session was Ana Maria de Roda Husman, and Anoek Backx facilitated a by RIVM developed serious game to trigger conversation and thought processes.
Participants of the Meeting of the Party Side Event on Climate-resilient Water and Sanitation Safety Plans discussing while playing the serious game developed by RIVM, and Ana Maria chairing the side-event.
The WHO CC provided major contributions to two other side-events: during the Legionellosis side-event, Ana Maria de Roda Husman presented the RIVM work around risk identification methods including wastewater treatment plants when identifying sources of community-acquired legionellosis, she also presented in the Risk Assessment side-event the by RIVM developed Quantitative Microbial Risk Assessment for water and related case-studies. All the documents and presentations related to the Fifth Meeting of the Parties of the Protocol on Water and Health can be accessed via this link.
In February 2020 the joint WHO EURO/UNECE Secretariat to the PoWH will visit the Netherlands to agree on the Dutch contributions and activities for the years 2020-2022. The WHO CC is providing support to I&W in determining the agenda of this meeting, and initiates exchange with the Ministry of Health Welfare and Sports, since many aspects under the PoWH fall in the Netherlands under their responsibility.
September & December 2019: Follow-up workshops on Climate Resilient Water Safety Plan for Pampanga Water Districts, Philippines
After the first Climate-Resilient Water Safety Planning workshop for the Pampanga Water Districts in July, Fabio Martins Gueth (RIVM) provided a follow-up training in September 2019 and a third an final training in December 2019. From 9-14 September, Fabio Martins Gueth (RIVM) provided a follow-up training on Climate Resilient Water Safety Planning continuing the collaboration between Philippine Association of Water Districts, VEI & RIVM, the training aimed to continue the development and implementation of water safety plans (WSP) by the participating Pampanga water districts. After gaining knowledge on the approach of water safety planning in July, the water districts started gathering information about their water supply system in order to develop or update their WSP. This training focused on discussing and the scrutinizing gathered information. The twelve water districts were divided into four clusters of three water districts in order to have a more focused discussion and concrete input from the participating water districts per cluster. This approach generated lively debates whereby the water districts shared their experiences and the challenges faced in developing/updating their WSP. It was encouraging to see the progress some water districts had made since July, where the participants took each other’s as well as the trainers feedback to heart. In December (2-6) the third and final training on climate-resilient water safety planning for Pampanga Water Districts was held in Angeles City, Pampanga. The training provided by Fabio Martins Gueth (RIVM), carried on from the previous trainings in July & September. Building on the previous knowledge and experience from the trainings in July where the Water Districts got acquainted with the Water Safety Planning approach and September where the water districts focused on reviewing the existing WSPs based on the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) requirements for accreditation. With this third and final training/workshop the aim was to fine-tune the WSPs and support the water districts in tackling the specific challenges they face in developing and implementing the WSP as well as reflect on this process.
Based on the progress made since the first training in July and the participation during the workshop, it can be concluded that the water districts now have a better understanding of the WSP approach and that most water districts have been able to develop a WSP and are now able to review and revise their WSP in a structured and logical manner. This has been illustrated by the fact that six from the eleven water districts have submitted their WSP to LWUA for approval. Moreover, after updating their WSP with the feedback provided in July and September and submitting it to LWUA, one water district’s WSP has been approved with an excellent score from LWUA. This highlights the added value of this workshop, the progress made by the water districts and how they have made use of the tools and information provided to them during the workshops.
October 2019: Climate Resilient Water Safety Planning training by RIVM for Water Service Providers in Nakuru, Kenya.
In October 2019, Fabio Martins Gueth (RIVM) provided a customised a four-day Climate Resilient Water Safety Planning training for the water & sanitation service providers of the Nakuru County in Kenya.
As part of the Kenyan Water Services Regulatory Board (WASREB), Kenyan water service providers are required to develop and implement a water safety plan (WSP). As the participating water service providers have yet to develop a water safety plan, this training aimed to help them get acquainted with the water safety plan framework from the World Health Organization. This training focused on what is needed to develop a WSP and the importance of having a clear and comprehensive description of the water supply system as well as identifying the possible hazard and hazardous events that could negatively affect the water supply. The participants were enthusiastic and participated lively during the several exercises presented to them. Moreover, they are eager to gather the needed information and develop a WSP as they see the potential benefits for their operation in delivering quality drinking water as well as a tool to prevent non-revenue water. A follow-up of this training will be held in February 2020, whereby the participants will have developed a system description and the possible hazards/hazardous events of their water supply system.
September 2019: Third Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Microbial Risk Assessment (JEMRA)
In September, the third JEMRA Core Expert Meeting on the Safety and Quality of Water Used in Food Production and Processing of 2019 convened in Geneva. The preceding meetings took place in 2017 at RIVM in Bilthoven and in 2018 at FAO in Rome and the reports of these meetings are available. Our WHO CC on Risk Assessment of Pathogens from Water and Food is a major driver of and contributor to these meetings. Prof. Ana Maria de Roda Husman, microbiological water safety expert, head of the WHO CC, and liaison person between food- and water experts, chairs this programme. The WHO CC contributed to the organisation of the meeting and was invited to share its expertise. Both Ana Maria de Roda Husman and Rob de Jonge, microbiological food safety expert, contributed to this meeting.
The focus of this third meeting was on the definition and its indicators of fit-for-purpose water for use in fresh produce (fruits and vegetables), as not each step requires the use of water of drinking water quality. The WHO CC together with its secretariat supported the renewed group of 14 participating experts from 12 countries. The expert group was renewed to enhance the representation of all continents and better balance gender participation. The WHO CC and secretariat took care of formulating the advice regarding the level of water quality needed for microbiologically safe production and processing of food. This comprises advice on the existing different water sources, possible sources of water contamination, and factors that can influence these. Irrigation methods, yield practices and fruit and vegetable species are key factors in implementing safe production systems for fresh produce. Testing methods, microbiological indicators and risk analyses were discussed. The report from this meeting will be discussed in the coming Codex Alimentarius meeting. The meeting report 'Safety and Quality of Water Used in Food Production and Processing MICROBIOLOGICAL RISK ASSESSMENT is available.
Similar meetings on the handling and processing of fish and reuse of water will follow.
August 2019: Publication WHO report 'Microplastics in drinking-water'
On 22 August 2019, the World Health Organization published the report 'Microplastics in drinking-water' as a first effort to examine the potential human health risks associated with exposure to microplastics in the environment.
The WHO Collaborating Center Risk Assessment on Pathogens from Food and Water contributed to this report, specifically to the revision of the WHO Guidelines on Drinking-water Quality: Guidelines for drinking-water quality, 4th edition, incorporating the 1st addendum. Read more in this news message: WHO calls for more research into microplastics and a crackdown on plastic pollution.
July 2019: WHO CC moderator of side-event Burden of Foodborne Diseases, 42nd Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting (CAC42)
Dr Joke van der Giessen of the WHO CC (RIVM) moderated the CAC42 side-event Burden of Foodborne Diseases held 11 July in Geneva. Panellists were Dr Brecht Devleeschhouwer, Dr Peter Hoejskov and Dr Scott Crerar. One hundred participants joined the side event. This event addressed practical questions concerning the prerequisites, requirements and actual methodologies related to estimating the burden at the national level. Foodborne disease is one of the most prevalent, yet underreported classes of illnesses in the world, with annually an estimated 1 in 10 people affected. The global burden of foodborne disease report published by WHO in 2015 was the first of its kind on such an expansive global scale and estimated that up to 33 million healthy life years are lost per year due to foodborne disease. The importance of developing national estimates of foodborne diseases has been highlighted elsewhere, but many questions remain as to how exactly to calculate the burden.
July 2019: Training on Climate Resilient Water Safety Plans by RIVM for the Pampanga Water Districts in the Philippines
From 1 – 10 July 2019, Harold van den Berg and Fabio Martins Gueth (RIVM) provided a tailor-made training on climate-resilient Water Safety Plans (WSP) for the Pampanga Water Districts. This training was part of the collaboration between VEI and Philippine Association of Water Districts, which stresses that the implementation of WSP is important to improve the water quality in the Pampanga region.
With the implementation of WSP being legally required in the Philippines, this training workshop aimed at:
- sensitising personnel from the Water Districts for WSP issues and motivate them to support and contribute to the process of WSP implementation.
- revising and reviewing existing WSPs of the Water Districts based on the training, field visits and WSP rating from the Local Water Utility Administration (LWUA)
- learning from each other by sharing experiences.
In total, 33 participants from 12 Water Districts participated in the training workshop held at Angeles City Water from 1 – 5 July.
Through interactive lectures and exercises, the WSP training included all the 11 steps described by the WHO. In addition, a field visit was conducted to highlight the importance of verifying existing data on the system description and identification of risks. This provided a good opportunity for the Water Districts to have a look at a similar water supply system.
After the training workshop, Harold and Fabio visited all 12 Water Districts (8 – 10 July) to discuss the steps to be taken for implementing or modifying the WSP for their water supply.
The presence of the General Managers of the water districts at the training workshop highlighted the commitment and eagerness from the water districts to participate and learn from this training on WSP. The training and visits were very successful as participants have a better understanding of what is needed to design and implement a WSP as well as its importance in the improvement of water quality.
Later this year a follow up with the participating water districts will take place.
May 2019: Water Safety Planning Training Bosnia and Herzegovina
The WHO EURO and WHO Country Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina organised a three-day introductory workshop on Water Safety Planning for policymakers and drinking water production managers and professionals. The WHO invited Harold van den Berg from the WHO CC to give a presentation on the Risk Assessment and Risk Management methods and tools applied in the drinking water production sector in the Netherlands. In total, 28 participants from the two entities Bosnia and Herzegovina took part in the three-day workshop. The aim of the workshop was to introduce the participants to the concept of progressive continuous management planning for water safety and invite them to think each step through while sharing mutual experiences. RIVM's Anoek Backx was invited to the workshop and recorded the final discussion and conclusions of the participants: they expressed their interest in further training and support and the willingness to set up water safety plans in their sectors.
The secretariat of the Protocol on Water and Health will provide support to the governments of both entities to outline a planning for development and implementation of WSP in the relevant sectors in the country, and to indicate needs for further training. Our WHO CC presented a range of related onward training programmes they can provide. The participants agreed on piloting a training of trainers and rolling out further training to individual production plants and producers.
22 March 2019: WHO highlights water safety plans Tajikistan on WorldWaterDay
As a health response towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 6, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the introduction of a Water Safety Plan (WSP) for every drinking-water supply. The approach combines established risk-management principles with the prevention-focused operation and monitoring practices. These principles remain the same for large urban suppliers as they do for small rural operators, and they have already been applied in over 80 countries around the world. The national surveillance authorities responsible for drinking-water quality monitoring showed great interest in strengthening their efforts in alignment with WHO recommendations. The staff of the local, regional and national branches of the Sanitary Epidemiological Service were trained in collaboration with the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) on risk-based surveillance approaches and the prioritisation of water quality parameters to ensure focused and cost-effective monitoring while protecting health. Read more
October 2018: Training Risk-based Drinking Water Quality Surveillance in Tajikistan
Within the WHO-EURO project Small and safe: scaling-up water safety planning and effective water quality monitoring in rural Tajikistan, Harold van den Berg provided two 2-days training on risk-based drinking water quality surveillance for Sanitary, Epidemiology and Surveillance (SES) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. In total, 36 participants from 22 district and 3 regional SES, participated in the training. During the training, the participants learned how to set up and conduct risk-based surveillance for water supplies in the districts. As part of the training, field measurements and sanitary inspections were conducted in water supplies of three villages. Based on the results, we discussed what advice and guidance could be given based on the water quality data and sanitary inspections.
Six of the participants were identified as a trainer, based on their experiences and participation in previous training on water quality monitoring. The trainers supported the participants with the field measurements and conducting sanitary inspections. In future, the trainers can play an important role in supporting other districts in conducting risk-based surveillance.
July 4th 2018: 41st Codex Alimentarius Commission
RIVM’s Collaborating Centre for Risk Assessment of Pathogens in Food and Water was invited to WHO’s side event during the 41st Codex Alimentarius Commission. The side event highlighted the importance of national capacity-building efforts for conducting foodborne disease burden estimates. Countries can request WHO to support them in calculating disease burden estimations. RIVM’s WHO CC will support WHO in providing capacity building workshops.
May 2018: JEMRA on Water Quality in Food Production and Processing at FAO in Rome
14- 18 May 2018, the JEMRA on Water Quality in Food Production and Processing convened for a second time at the FAO in Rome. The first meeting with the RIVM WHO CC was in June 2017 and it was then concluded that further guidance needed to be developed to make the information from the water sector better accessible for the food handling and processing sector, with a focus on fisheries, primary production and reuse and recycling in food processing facilities.
May 2018, the RIVM WHO CC again played a facilitating role in its interdisciplinary capacity as a bridge-builder between the food and water sector.
About 20 experts representing high and lower-income settings took part in this meeting in Rome, which had two main goals:
- To formulate scientific advice with regard to gaps in current guidance on microbial assessments in relation to fisheries, primary production and reuse/recycling.
- To develop a decision support tree with regard to water quality and detailing points of contact for these aforementioned sub-categories
The findings will be presented to the Codex Alimentarius Committee for Food Hygiene (CCFH) in November 2018. Dr Rob de Jonge, Ir. Lieke Friederichs, Prof. Ana Maria de Roda Husman of the RIVM's WHO Collaborating Centre are recurring members of this JEMRA expert group.
April 2018: Revision of WHO GDWQ
A small group of microbial experts including from RIVM, gathered from April 16-20, 2018 to further the revision of the 4th edition of the World Health Organization (WHO) Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality (GDWQ) kindly hosted by Karl Linden and his group at the University of Colorado in Boulder, USA. The experts determined the next steps in developing the fifth edition of the GDWQ related to microbial aspects. Main topics concerned the microbial fact sheets in Chapter 11 and the microbial treatment tables in Chapter 7 of the WHO GDWQ. The content of the microbial fact sheets was reviewed and also the initial findings from the systematic literature review on selected treatment technologies to inform the update of the microbial treatment tables in the GDWQ including the log reduction values were reviewed. The remaining gaps were identified and agreements made upon a way forward towards the launch of the 5th edition of the WHO GDWQ planned for 2020.
Microbial experts, University of Colorado, Boulder USA
April 2017: Pan-European Symposium Water and Sanitation Safety Planning and Extreme Weather Events
On April 6 and 7, 2017 the WHO CC on Pathogens in Food and Water hosted a symposium on Water and Sanitation Safety (WSSP) Planning in Extreme Weather Events at RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in Bilthoven. The event was co-sponsored by the Netherlands Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, WHO Regional Office for Europe and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe.
Safe management of water and sanitation.
With contributions from over 15 countries, mainly from the pan-European region, the event meant a kick-off from the work on the safe management of water and sanitation systems within the 2017-2019 programme of work of the Protocol on Water and Health. The symposium included a number of sessions with topics like impacts from flooding and droughts, including health impacts, sanitation safety planning in urban areas, water safety planning in peri-urban and rural areas, and integrated management solutions for climate adaptative water services planning.
The sessions were introduced by keynote presenters, among which were prof. Barbara Evans, prof. Paul Hunter and prof. Pier Vellinga. The WHO Regional Office for Europe supported two workshops: one on Climate-adaptive Water Safety Planning and one on Sanitation Safety Planning. In an interactive session, the potential linkage between the two, and their potential to provide an integrated management strategy for climate adaptive water management was discussed. The presentations from the symposium can be found on the IWC website http://www.iwcconferences.com/wssp-and-extreme-weather/