April 2022: WHO publishes two documents on surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that wastewater surveillance for a new pathogen can be set up relatively quickly. On 19 April 2022, the WHO published the document Wastewater surveillance of SARS-CoV-2: questions and answers (‎Q&A)‎ for a general audience and an Interim Guidance Environmental surveillance for SARS-COV-2 to complement public health surveillance targeted at public health officials who want to understand and integrate complementary environmental surveillance into COVID-19 control strategies. Both of these documents relied upon the technical contributions of experts from the WHO CC.

The Q&As aim to provide a first point of access to knowledge and information around wastewater surveillance of SARS-CoV-2. The WHO CC took the lead in the preparation of this document following a request by the WHO Regional Office for Europe to develop a document of this type. The Interim Guidance led by WHO headquarters updates the scientific brief Status of environmental surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 virus: scientific brief, 5 August 2020. The guidance provides advice on situations where environmental surveillance can add value to public health decision making, requirements to plan and coordinate an effective programme, and how to carry out data collection and communication of results. Experts of the WHO CC were selected to join the external review group of the interim guidance. The two documents (Q&A and interim guidance) complement each other in representing globally relevant advice for a varied audience on:

  • Why, or in what situations, does environmental surveillance add value to public health decision making at different stages of the pandemic, and in different settings and contexts.
  • What are the minimum requirements for planning and coordinating an effective SARS-COV-2 environmental surveillance programme in different resource settings?
  • How should data collection, analysis and interpretation and communication of results be carried out?

Jerome Lock-Wah-Hoon, Harold van den Berg, Joris Sprokholt, and Ana Maria de Roda Husman collaborated with the WHO Regional Office for Europe and WHO's headquarters team in the development of these documents.

March 2022: Updated Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality now available to mark World Water Day

Today is World Water Day, a celebration for water with a focus on the importance of groundwater. It raises awareness of the 2 billion people living without access to safe water, advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources worldwide.

To mark World Water Day 2022, the WHO announces the updated Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality (GDWQ): 4th edition, incorporating the 1st and 2nd addenda is published. Key updates include new and revised sections on potable reuse, climate change, emergencies, and food production and processing. Also, fact sheets on chemicals and cyanobacteria were updated, and for this year updates on microbial fact sheets are planned for the next edition.

 The GDWQ builds on over 60 years of guidance by the WHO on drinking water quality, which has formed an authoritative basis for the setting of national regulations and standards for water safety in support of public health. More information on the updates is available in the  Guidelines on recreational water quality The preparation of the 4th edition and new updates to the guidance have covered a period of more than 10 years and involved the participation of hundreds of experts from a wide range of developing and developed countries. The WHO CC has contributed by providing scientific and technical expertise on hazard identification and risk management.