GoAigua, a water technology company based in Spain that operates about 300 water utility systems in Europe, has developed a method with The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) to analyze the spread of coronavirus through wastewater. In addition, the company is using its broad proprietary data platform to synthesize automatic sampling results with data from utility networks and measure the spread of Covid-19 across city districts in real-time.
Due to widespread lack of reliable testing, it has proved incredibly difficult for governments to monitor cases of the highly infectious virus. GoAigua has engineered a unique and innovative solution: by monitoring wastewater networks, it can provide regulators and public health officials with a new and effective tool to establish social distancing guidelines or anticipate future spikes in hospitalization. "There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through," CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview with The Washington Post.
A History of Public Health Collaboration
This is not the first time GoAigua has been at the cutting-edge of combining water technology with national public health efforts. In 2017, the GoAigua’s parent company (Global Omnium) launched a partnership with The Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), a National State Agency for scientific research, to detect different infectious virus in wastewater, which was successfully completed by the end of 2019.
In March 2020, at the peak of the pandemic in Spain, GoAigua’s parent company (Global Omnium) reengaged with CSIC to adapt the methodology developed over the previous 2 years to detect the amount of coronavirus present in sewage water. The methodology works, in simple terms, by quantifying genomic units of SARS-CoV2 in wastewater. In other words, it measures how much of the virus DNA is in the sewer water, which offers valuable information about how many people in certain areas are infected, even if asymptomatic.
The company is already in conversations with the regional government of Valencia (Spain) to implement a large-scale surveillance program in the territory.
How can the US benefit from this development?
GoAigua has gone above and beyond by leveraging their systemic sampling capacity to bring testing up to scale. Combined with the company’s unparalleled data integration and analytic tools, GoAigua’s software allows water utilities to assist local public health agencies with real time maps of virus spread in different areas of cities, anticipating testing availability. GoAigua also offers a mobile-based app for operators to monitor sampling processes and integrate other internal data such as pH or chlorine levels to adjust the results of the analysis. To make such testing even more effective, GoAigua further harnesses its deep experience in managing water utilities to strategically locate sampling in the most efficient locations according to the morphology and topology of the sewer network.
Beginning immediately, GoAigua will partner with several water utilities in the United States to train them on the methodology. This will empower some American water utilities to become fully capable of conducting massive testing like they are in Spain, where they can process 300 tests per day. This significant development in testing, together with GoAigua’s digital platform, will help US communities better monitor the spread of COVID and anticipate future outbreaks.
Mr. Pablo Calabuig, CEO of GoAigua in the US, noted that this proprietary solution may not provide users with exact figures about the spread of the virus. Nevertheless it is a remarkably reliable way to show the intensity at which COVID has hit a community, and will be crucial during the fall, when public health officials are concerned about the possibility of another peak in the global COVID-19 pandemic.
GoAigua is the digital innovation arm of Global Omnium, a family-owned major European utility operator, with about 300 municipalities under management and 130 years of experience in water. After completing their successful digital transformation, GoAigua was launched as their smart water platform, in an ambitious effort to catalyze the adoption of modern and cutting-edge digital technologies at water utilities around the world. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, GoAigua further accelerated their research efforts to integrate their smart water capabilities with massive sewer testing, thereby helping local communities better track and stop the spread of the virus in real-time.