The ‘brown gold’ : Why we need to mine sewage

2020-02-27 12:24:00

For the Barcelona case study our partner Institut Català de Recerca de l'Aigua, in short ICRA, is engaged in sewage sociology. It may sounds gross, but it is a vital component in monitoring health risk factors and health status of communities. Sewer sociology can be understood as “mining socioeconomic information of neighborhoods from the chemical and microbiological analysis of their citizens’ sewage”.

Why is there a need to ‘mine’ sewage information one may ask? It’s complementary to existing methods which show some limitations. For instance, questionnaire surveys have limitations due to the lack of veracity in participants’ responses and budget constraints, which restrict the spatiotemporal coverage. Population databases (e.g. census) and medical records often lack socioeconomic data and lifestyle habits, they are not fully reliable or complete, and are infrequently updated (only once every year in the best situations).

ICRA is not alone in this. For the SCOREwater project they are counting on several complementary Catalan partners (BCASA, s::can iberia, IERMB) all working together in the case-study of Barcelona where 3 neighborhoods will be monitored during one year. Which neighborhoods it concerns won’t be disclosed, since it can influence the research outcomes.

Currently the first test samples are being extracted. We will keep you updated on the progress.


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Reference / read more:

‘Sewage Sociology’ by ICRATech (pdf, English

Catalan version (pdf)