HERA and partners launch Global Consortium for Wastewater and Environmental Surveillance for Public Health

A new Global Consortium for Wastewater and Environmental Surveillance for Public Health (GLOWACON) has been launched today. Its primary objective is to create an international sentinel system for the early detection, prevention, and real-time monitoring of epidemic threats and outbreaks. The launch event is taking place in Brussels over 19-20 March and includes participation of more than 300 key global partners including the European Commission’s HERA, the World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Africa CDC, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Wastewater surveillance allows for an agile response to health threats of emerging concern. It provides early indications of community transmission of diseases and variants, and can be done at a fraction of the cost of laboratory testing. This is why it was identified as one of HERA’s core actions when the authority was set up in 2021. In 2022, the Commission introduced urban wastewater surveillance in the proposal for a recast Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive. Member States’ authorities are notably to cooperate in ensuring health-related parameters are monitored during public health emergencies, such as SARS-CoV-2. Monitoring of antimicrobial resistance is also required.

GLOWACON aims to bring together community-based surveillance and strategic surveillance at transportation hubs, including airports and aircrafts. It will also identify funding gaps and opportunities. While several countries are already investing on similar initiatives, there is a clear need for enhanced collaboration, capacities and data exchange at global level. This will help to avoid duplication and maximise synergies among existing and planned activities. With GLOWACON, HERA, in collaboration with the JRC and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will stimulate innovation and promote the institutionalisation of wastewater and environmental surveillance as a routine activity within public health systems and institutions.

Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, said: “Establishing robust water surveillance capabilities on global, regional and local scales is essential for effectively monitoring public health diseases, enhancing epidemic intelligence and conducting pathogen surveillance. Wastewater and environmental surveillance were one of the key tools used throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to detect outbreaks and track variants, allowing us act faster. This new consortium, led by the Commission’s Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority, a key pillar of the European Health Union, will play a pivotal role in supporting decision making and strengthening pandemic preparedness.”