To sample or not to sample: A governance-focused decision tree for wastewater service providers considering participation in wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) in support of public health programs

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Science of the Total Environment


Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) provides value to public health monitoring and protection. Participation of public and private wastewater system operators in WBE efforts is critical to public health surveillance program success and sustainability. However, given the number of WBE solicitations wastewater service providers receive, the limitation of service provider resources, the concerns around privacy, ethics, and equity, and the fatigue associated with responding to COVID-19, operators are becoming more hesitant to participate in WBE efforts. While various ethical concerns and sustainability challenges associated with WBE have been documented, no efforts to date have investigated what factors should systematically influence the decision to provide samples to a WBE effort. Therefore, this study develops a decision-making tool for WBE teams to proactively monitor, manage, and avoid wastewater system operators' operational risks and potential liabilities. Ultimately, using this tool allows WBE program partners in academia, government, and industry to better understand wastewater system operators' needs and challenges surrounding data quality and use, public health ethics, and daily wastewater infrastructure operation.

PubMed ID