/Tempe wastewater data program to expand thanks to new AZDHS, CDC funding

Tempe wastewater data program to expand thanks to new AZDHS, CDC funding

Aug. 5, 2021
Tempe, AZ – Tempe’s leadership in public health innovation for wastewater epidemiology is being funded by the State of Arizona with a $1 million partnership. This will expand the city’s program and inform state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) national best practices in the field of sewer surveillance for COVID-19.
The State of Arizona has received a federal Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Cooperative Agreement from the CDC to partner with the City of Tempe to expand its COVID-19 wastewater epidemiology program.
The CDC funds Epidemiology and Laboratory cooperative agreements annually. These have been critical to U.S. health departments’ ability to combat infectious diseases by funding states, local health departments and affiliates to detect, respond to, control and prevent infectious diseases.

“Tempe is a forward-thinking, innovative community. Our use of wastewater science shows that we are taking full advantage of all the tools available to fight COVID-19,” said Tempe Mayor Corey Woods. “Our community thanks AZDHS and the CDC for their partnership and funding.”
Wastewater-based epidemiology is the science of studying community sewage for public health information. The City of Tempe has been involved with using wastewater as a tool to survey community health since 2018 when the City Council first directed funds to the Strategic Management and Diversity Office to partner with Dr. Rolf Halden of the ASU Biodesign Institute and his scientists to begin a Tempe-based program. Since that time, Tempe has measured the presence of opioid concentrations and, since March 2020, COVID-19 signals, in the wastewater.

Tempe was the first city in the United States and internationally to use wastewater data to inform strategic and operational decisions to protect local public health. For COVID-19, the City of Tempe gathers data from seven wastewater collection areas throughout the city, including the Town of Guadalupe, and posts the weekly data on a dashboard.

This wastewater data, along with COVID-19 percent positive test results, cases per 100,000 people and Tempe Fire Medical Rescue’s EMS COVID-19 suspected calls for service, inform the city’s COVID-19 response. Tempe also monitors vaccination rates for its four zip codes. Residents can see all the data at tempe.gov/indicators.

Watch a video about how the results are used to inform public health decisions.

Tempe’s wastewater data dashboard shows the strength of COVID-19 signal in seven areas. Data is updated weekly. 
In this partnership, the City of Tempe will expand its wastewater surveillance program and provide a proven model and expertise for other communities. 
The City of Tempe will receive $1 million from AZDHS to measure COVID-19 concentrations within the City of Tempe. This will allow the city to reduce the size of surveillance areas while continuing to maintain anonymity for people living and working in Tempe. Smaller areas allow the city to home in on areas that may benefit from additional resources, such as educational tools, or plan to staff more emergency responders in those areas.
The funding also leans on Tempe’s expertise in the wastewater surveillance field. As part of the agreement, the City of Tempe would help develop protocols, best practices and strategies for water sampling and providing information to the public about the practice and its results. City staff would also develop a steering committee that could take action early and quickly in areas that show upward trends of the virus.
“Tempe’s commitment to the health and well-being of our community has fueled this important work. We are eager to advance public health at local, state and national levels through science, equity and public trust,” said Deputy City Manager Rosa Inchausti. “We appreciate the acknowledgement through this funding and look forward to working with other innovative partners.”
The funding will be presented to the City of Tempe through an intergovernmental agreement with the State of Arizona at a future Tempe City Council meeting.

Media Contact: Kris Baxter-Ging
City of Tempe Public Information Officer