Longitudinal SARS-CoV-2 RNA wastewater monitoring across a range of scales correlates with total and regional COVID-19 burden in a well-defined urban population

Nicole Acosta, María A. Bautista, Barbara J. Waddell, Janine McCalder, Alexander Buchner Beaudet, Lawrence Man, Puja Pradhan, Navid Sedaghat, Chloe Papparis, Andra Bacanu, Jordan Hollman, Alexander Krusina, Danielle A. Southern, Tyler Williamson, Carmen Li, Srijak Bhatnagar, Sean Murphy, Jianwei Chen, Darina Kuzma, Rhonda ClarkJon Meddings, Jia Hu, Jason L. Cabaj, John M. Conly, Xiaotian Dai, Xuewen Lu, Thierry Chekouo, Norma J. Ruecker, Gopal Achari, M. Cathryn Ryan, Kevin Frankowski, Casey R.J. Hubert, Michael D. Parkins

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) is an emerging surveillance tool that has been used to monitor the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by tracking SARS-CoV-2 RNA shed into wastewater. WBE was performed to monitor the occurrence and spread of SARS-CoV-2 from three wastewater treatment plants (WWTP) and six neighborhoods in the city of Calgary, Canada (population 1.44 million). A total of 222 WWTP and 192 neighborhood samples were collected from June 2020 to May 2021, encompassing the end of the first-wave (June 2020), the second-wave (November end to December 2020) and the third-wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (mid-April to May 2021). Flow-weighted 24-hour composite samples were processed to extract RNA that was then analyzed for two SARS-CoV-2-specific regions of the nucleocapsid gene, N1 and N2, using reverse transcription-quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). Using this approach SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected in 98.06% (406/414) of wastewater samples. SARS-CoV-2 RNA abundance was compared to clinically diagnosed COVID-19 cases organized by the three-digit postal code of affected individuals’ primary residences, enabling correlation analysis at neighborhood, WWTP and city-wide scales. Strong correlations were observed between N1 & N2 gene signals in wastewater and new daily cases for WWTPs and neighborhoods. Similarly, when flow rates at Calgary's three WWTPs were used to normalize observed concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and combine them into a city-wide signal, this was strongly correlated with regionally diagnosed COVID-19 cases and clinical test percent positivity rate. Linked census data demonstrated disproportionate SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater from areas of the city with lower socioeconomic status and more racialized communities. WBE across a range of urban scales was demonstrated to be an effective mechanism of COVID-19 surveillance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number118611
JournalWater Research
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul. 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Census data
  • Epidemiological monitoring
  • Neighborhoods
  • RT-qPCR
  • Wastewater-based epidemiology


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