DENVER (KDVR) – Gov. Jared Polis announced that the week starting on Nov. 28 and ending on Dec. 2 has officially been renamed “Wastewater Utility Appreciation Week” in honor of the efforts made by wastewater utilities across the state during the COVID-19-fueled pandemic.

State officials made this designation to give some well-deserved recognition to the wastewater utilities across the state that helped the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment create a statewide COVID-19 wastewater monitoring system.

According to CDPHE, they’ve been receiving wastewater samples twice a week since August 2020 from more than 60 Colorado-based wastewater utilities. By coupling those numbers with other public health data, state leaders and health partners were able to “respond effectively to COVID-19 trends.”

“The data generated from the samples [provided] enhances our understanding of the burden of disease across the state and in the communities they serve,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Herlihy explained.

Over the summer, plans were announced to begin this kind of wastewater testing in specific public school buildings in order to give school and public health leaders one more point of information to help them make safety decisions.

These methods will continue to help predict and monitor health trends, specifically through the detection of viruses in wastewater. If you are interested in exploring the online Colorado COVID Wasterwater Monitoring Data Trends tool, you can visit the state’s page which shows the most recent and up-to-date figures for each wastewater utility.

Now, according to officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado and Houston officials are planning to begin testing sewage for other health threats, including:

  • Germs with antibiotic resistance
  • Influenza
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus also referred to as RSV
  • Norovirus
  • Other bugs

Additionally, commercial laboratories began testing wastewater earlier this year for “mpox,” previously known as monkeypox. It is easy to see that this data-gathering approach is becoming a more frequent presence in the battle against widespread health threats.

That’s why state officials are asking Coloradans to spend some time this week honoring those working in Colorado’s wastewater utilities. They play an impactful role in keeping health officials armed with the information needed to keep our communities safe and adjusted to potential health crises.