Barcelona 'smart' sewers could flush out key virus information
Rahul Pathak

Sewers may hold valuable information, from potential virus outbreaks to environmental damage. 

The European Union is backing a plan for a 'smart water society' using the data for  the benefit of the community, including predicting future COVID-19 outbreaks.

New waste water management innovator, ScoreWATER has been working on the scheme  with the University of Barcelona.

Silvia Bofill, from the anthropology department, says that sewer analysis can bring advanced warnings of outbreaks.

"The early warning is really important and it's interesting for that time or period of the year when we don't have the virus circulating, then it will be really worth analysing sewage samples from wastewater treatment plants to see if an outbreak is coming or not when there are no clinical cases and you're not testing a lot of people in the hospitals," she told CGTN.

Far reaching benefits

Scientists will also be able to assess community eating habits, resistance to antibiotics or even environmental damage caused by, for example, grease or oil. With this it can make public awareness campaigns for communities that need it most.

The project uses sensors placed around the city in different neighborhoods, operating 24 hours a day to provide real time data.

'Sewer Sociology'

Pilot tests are also taking place in Holland and Sweden for the "digitisation" of water.

ScoreWATER managing director Jordi Raich says the project is at the forefront of new technology to tackle COVID-19.

"The technology in this project is absolutely cutting-edge, especially with regards to digitisation, and as you know this is a big deal now for both for the EU and for Spain with all the earmarked funds to make sure we leave the Covid situation behind us. I think we are right at the forefront of this idea," he said.

The hope is that this kind of 'sewer-sociology' can produce far reaching benefits for both health and the environmental needs to cities in Europe and beyond.