Canal de Isabel II exports Vigía System for COVID-19 monitoring in wastewater to Peru

The Canal de Isabel II system has been chosen by the United Nations to track the coronavirus in Peruvian sewage networks.

Canal de Isabel II, a publicly-owned company belonging to the Autonomous Community of Madrid, has been selected by the EU-WOP programme to develop the VIGÍA System for tracking, monitoring and early warning of COVID-19 in wastewater in the metropolitan areas of Lima and Callao, which have more than nine million inhabitants (30 % of Peru’s population).

The EU-WOP programme is a collaborative initiative between water operators, led by UN-Habitat’s Global Water Operators’ Partnerships Alliance (GWOPA) and funded by the European Commission DEVCO. This week, GWOPA selected Madrid’s VIGÍA system to monitor Peruvian sewage networks for the purpose of providing early warning of coronavirus waves, in addition to combating climate change through the use of reclaimed water.

VIGÍA is the largest system for tracking, monitoring and early warning of COVID-19 in wastewater being developed in Spain, in terms of both the number of sampling points -289- and the population served. The project covers the 179 municipalities in the Autonomous Community of Madrid, which have a total population of 6.8 million.  

“The Autonomous Community of Madrid has put water at the service of the health of the people of Madrid through the detection of COVID in wastewater, thus providing health authorities with another effective decision-making tool. Now, with the support of the United Nations, which has selected our VIGÍA System, and funding from the European Commission, we will offer our knowledge and experience to other countries wishing to develop effective systems such as the one we have implemented in our region, one of the most ambitious at European level”, said Paloma Martín, Regional Minister of the Environment, Housing and Agriculture of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, and President of Canal de Isabel II.

In Madrid, 100 % of the population is screened every week. Since the implementation of the system, almost 20,000 analyses have been carried out. Subsequently, the statistically analysed results have been made available to the health authorities, leading to the detection of the second, third and fourth waves of the pandemic. The system provides early data that allows health authorities to improve their epidemiological control strategies, not only for COVID-19, but also for other pathogens found in wastewater. 

VIGÍA features a system for consolidating and visualising data on an interactive map, enabling citizens to consult the presence of the virus anywhere in the region at https://www.canaldeisabelsegunda.es/mapa-vigia , which has received over 450,000 visits to date.

COLLABORATION AMONGST WATER SERVICE PROVIDERS

The project, worth a total of €900,000, was submitted in partnership with Sedapal (Lima’s drinking water and sanitation operator) and was selected from more than 140 proposals for implementation within the framework of the EU-WOP programme. The initiative avails of the capacity of utilities to help each other achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and particularly SDG 6 on improving water and sanitation services.

Efficient local water and sanitation service providers, such as Canal de Isabel II, are essential to achieve this goal and address the enormous current shortcomings. At present, 2.1 billion people do not have access to clean water and 4.5 billion lack sanitation systems.

The VIGÍA System was presented at the EU’s European Committee of the Regions and at the UN General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on water in March. In the same month, the European Commission approved the Recommendation that Member States should have COVID-19 wastewater monitoring systems in place by October, meaning that the Autonomous Community of Madrid had implemented this Recommendation almost one year prior to its approval.

UN-Habitat, the United Nations agency leading the EU-WOP programme, will be responsible for supervising the initiative. It will provide Canal de Isabel II with a subsidy of more than €320,000 over three years (379,740 U$D) for the provision of advisory services to Peruvian company Sedapal in the areas of COVID-19 tracking and study of the production of reclaimed water in the metropolitan area of Lima and Callao, amongst other actions. In parallel, other activities will be carried out for knowledge management, through UNESCO’s IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, as well as for the communication and exchange of good practices between water utilities.