Web platform launched to address Covid-19 challenges
Tuesday, 7 July 2020
A new website dedicated to collaboration and knowledge-sharing in the water sector has been launched by technology consultancy Isle.
The Water Action Platform, which is sponsored by leading water industry partners, pools experience and expertise from utilities around the world. It started as a response to Covid19 but is now encompassing a much wider range of topics.
This dynamic platform will catalyse experiences within the global water network to foster responses to Covid-19, at scale, to protect lives and livelihoods. The Water Action Platform is open to all and will be especially useful to water utilities, technology companies, global industry groups, governments and financial and academic institutions.
Isle chairman Piers Clark said, “Only through targeted global collaboration and coordinated action can we assist with the response to and recovery from this unprecedented health emergency. We aim to identify ways to support utilities and minimise impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on communities around the world where we can.
“I would like to thank all the individuals, companies and organisations that have come together and given the backing necessary to make this platform possible.”
A key feature of the Water Action Platform is a bi-weekly webinar, hosted by Clark, which is open to all. The most recent event was held twice on 25 June, to accommodate time zones, and six key learnings are highlighted below.
Six key learnings from the Water Action Platform
1. Collaboration identifies 95 technologies addressing Covid-19 issues
Technology will play a key role as utilities seek sustainable, viable solutions to Covid-19 challenges. In early April, Isle carried out a technology scan of over 2,500 supply chain companies on behalf of Water Action Platform participants.
More detailed research, funded by a collaboration of 23 utilities from across the world along with two development banks, has identified 95 technologies with a role to play in virus detection, removal, monitoring and contingency. The full findings will be revealed through the Water Action Platform in the coming weeks, meanwhile here is a breakdown of technology types identified:
- 8 for detecting and monitoring for the presence of Sars-Cov-2
- 32 with a proven ability to remove or deactivate Sars-Cov-1 or 2
- 29 for supporting remote work
- 26 that can help water utilities manage contingency in times of crisis
2. UK nanopore technology offers early virus detection potential
A molecule-sensing technology developed by UK company Oxford Nanopore could be on the cusp of a breakthrough into the water sector due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The company has developed the only technology that offers the sequencing of native deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) along with genuine real-time monitoring.
The technology has been successfully applied in other sectors and can identify the DNA and RNA of microorganisms or virus in liquids by looking at the resistance created across the nanomembrane, which varies across different microbe species.
Isle chairman Piers Clark said, “When I first saw Oxford Nanopore though Isle’s Technology Approval Groups, I thought this was a great technology looking for its killer application. With the ongoing discussions around Sars-CoV-2, RNA in wastewater and the potential this offers as an early detection system, that killer application might now be with us.”
3. Sewage epidemiology is increasingly valuable
The huge value and potential of using sewage epidemiology for scanning the spread of Covid-19 infection in populations is being revealed. Contrary to early assumptions, evidence based on sewage sample analysis now shows that the virus arrived in Italy in December 2019, rather than February 2020 as originally thought. While there are still questions around the reliability of the data, there is no evidence that the virus originated outside China. This is an exciting area to watch.
4. Two factors impact on the cost of implementing wastewater surveillance
The Water Action Platform community is very keen to hear how to cost implementation of an epidemiological wastewater surveillance system for Sars-CoV-2. This week, participants learned that costs vary depending on geographic location and availability of laboratory capacity at the appropriate biosafety level and access to commercial and university labs. More data is being gathered on the costs of epidemiological surveys and this will be reported at the next webinar on 9 July.
5. Utilities face huge revenue losses due to Covid-19
Utilities around the world anticipate a major loss in revenue due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. The current prediction of the financial impact of Covid-19 on US drinking water utilities is approximately US$13.9 billion, representing an overall 16.9% financial toll. US wastewater utilities were expected to lose an estimated US$16.8 billion in revenue. The figures are based on an assessment commissioned by the American Water Works Association and the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies and feature in a report from engineering consultancy and contractor Black & Veatch.
While no one knows what the final cost will be, Isle chairman Piers Clark says, “If this is the scale of impact in the US, where the majority of residents are able and willing to pay their water bills, the impact in other parts of the world is going to be even more extreme.”
6. Water vending machines provide affordable supplies
The need for all communities to have access to affordable piped water supplies has become even more critical through the Covid-19 pandemic. Where that is not yet possible, the roll-out of solar-powered water-vending machines is providing a practical alternative.
The water ‘ATMs’ are an economically viable and safe solution for urban and rural communities and India, Uganda, Bangladesh and Haiti are just a few of the countries where they are in use. Pricing is not much more than the cost of piped supplies and the purified rainwater is paid for via a water card, purchased from vendors and local shops.
Share experience and expertise
The challenges thrown up by Covid-19 require global collaboration and knowledge-sharing. To join the community and find out how other organisations are responding and share valuable learnings, visit www.wateractionplatform.com and register to join the next webinar on 9 July 2020.
Sponsors of the Water Action Platform include the businesses, governmental organisations, financial institutions, academic institutions and trade and professional bodies listed below.
Water Services Association of Australia
Institution of Civil Engineers
Instituto Tecnológico de Galicia