COVID-19 wastewater surveillance program

Wastewater samples from our treatment plants are tested for COVID-19 at laboratories in Melbourne.

People who have had COVID-19 may shed the virus or virus fragments in their stools or when bathing or showering. The virus breaks down and viral fragments enter wastewater through toilets, sinks and drains. This wastewater then travels through the sewerage network.

A positive wastewater testing result may provide an early warning for areas where there are no known cases of COVID-19. This can prompt increased or targeted wastewater testing, public health advice for individual testing, and other protective measures.

The Victorian COVID-19 wastewater surveillance program is:

  • overseen by the Victorian Government
  • coordinated by Water Research Australia
  • supported by Lower Murray Water and other water corporations collecting wastewater samples.

For more information, see Wastewater testing on the Victorian Government’s coronavirus (COVID-19) website.

Collecting samples

We send samples from the Mildura, Koorlong and Swan Hill water treatment plants to laboratories in Melbourne for testing.

Strict safety conditions apply when working with wastewater. Our staff also operate under a COVIDSafe Plan and wear personal protective equipment.

Any viral fragments that are identified during the laboratory testing process are not infectious. The virus cannot be transmitted through wastewater, either before or after treatment.


The samples are tested for SARS-CoV-2, the specific virus that causes COVID-19. The samples help health officials identify whether the virus is present in communities.

The testing methods were developed through the Collaboration on Sewage Surveillance for SARS-CoV-2 (ColoSSoS) project, led by Water Research Australia. Multiple laboratories and researchers have been involved.

Testing results

There are historical testing results from wastewater treatment plants and sewerage network catchments that are regularly tested for COVID-19.

See Wastewater testing on the Victorian Government Coronavirus (COVID-19) website.