The IWA COVID-19 Task Force

IWA COVID-19 Task Force chair Professor Joan Rose

Details of an important initiative harnessing the energies and expertise of the IWA network.


Given the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, IWA convened a Task Force (TF) to provide a focus for member-led activity on this issue, and give the sector an authoritative reference point on science and operational matters.

The TF connects with IWA’s Specialist Group networks, bringing together representatives from many of the most relevant of these, and is chaired by leading microbiologist Professor Joan Rose, of Michigan State University. Wastewater treatment has been one of the early focus areas. The TF has worked to prepare a paper on the science relevant to how treatment may remove or inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus, as this is central to questions on matters such as worker health and safety, and water reuse.

Other areas identified early on as being of high interest include wastewater monitoring as a public health tool for helping track the spread of the virus in communities, and the reopening of buildings after lockdowns. These are two areas in which the TF has been closely involved with the series of webinars and online discussions on COVID-19 that IWA has staged. The TF has identified key topics and taken a lead on securing speakers, including on the themes of wastewater monitoring and reopening of buildings. TF members have also participated in these events.

As of the end of June, the TF had held eight virtual meetings since the first one in early April. It has also established an expert Science Team to give feedback on written outputs of the TF, and an Intelligence & Communications Network. Members of this network have participated in several of the virtual meetings, to share updates. Likewise, members of the TF have taken part in meetings of other networks and organisations.

Ongoing task areas include preparing ‘lessons learned’ for water and wastewater utilities, to apply in coming phases of the pandemic and into the future. The TF has also provided input to the COVID-19 resources page on the IWA website –

The IWA COVID-19 Task Force members, and Specialist Groups (SG) represented, are:

Joan Rose (chair), Professor, Michigan State University, USA

Chao Chen, Associate Professor, Director of Division of Drinking Water Safety, School of Environment, Tsinghua University, China, Disinfection SG

Rosina Girones, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Barcelona and Team Leader of the Laboratory of viruses transmitted through water and food, Spain, Health-related Water Microbiology SG

Stuart Khan, Professor, School of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales, Australia, Water Reuse SG

Dorothee Lensch, Assistant of Chief Executive Officer, Ruhrverband, Germany, Design, Operation and Costs of Large Wastewater Treatment Plants SG

Per Halkjær Nielsen, Head of Center for Microbial Communities, Aalborg University, Denmark, IWA/ISME BioCluster

Banu Ormeci, Director, Global Water Institute, Canada, Sludge Management SG

Sudhir Pillay, Research Manager, Water Research Commission, South Africa, Non-Sewered Sanitation SG

Rui Sancho, Operations Department Coordinator/Water Safety Plan Coordinator, Aguas do Algarve, Portugal, Water Safety Planning SG

Joseph V Thanikal, Associate Dean and Director, RICS School of Built Environment, Amity University, India, Small Water and Wastewater Systems SG

Tong Zhang, Professor, Head of Environmental Microbiome Engineering and Biotechnology Laboratory, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China, Microbial Ecology and Water Engineering SG


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