Detecting coronavirus in waste water

From the beginning of 2022, the Health Board will carry out regular wastewater monitoring. The results can be found here.

The study “Building up the early warning surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 based on waste water analysis”

Researchers of the University of Tartu created an early warning surveillance of SARS-CoV-2 based on waste water analysis. International experience has shown that traces of the virus can be detected in waste water samples even before clinical patients are found. Waste water analysis also provides early information about the local spread of the virus. The study aimed to discover latent outbreaks and monitor the dynamics of outbreaks.

Waste water samples were collected in all Estonian county centres and towns with more than 10,000 inhabitants. In the collection of samples, the University of Tartu cooperated with the Estonian Environmental Research Centre and water companies operating the water treatment plants of Estonian towns. Waste water samples were analysed for the traces of coronavirus at the laboratories of the University of Tartu Institute of Technology that have the required technical capacity and trained staff.

The study started in August 2020. In the beginning of 2022 the methodology was ready to pass over to the Health Board who carries on the regular survey.

Map of monitoring coronavirus in waste water

  • Waste water samples for monitoring coronavirus are collected at the beginning of each week.
  • The results will be known by Friday afternoon, and then also the map will be updated.
  • The map gives an overview of the dynamics of the amount of coronavirus in the waste water of Estonian cities week by week since the start of the study. Clicking on the dot by the name of the city displays an overview regarding that location.
  • Each particle of the coronavirus detected in the sample contains one genome copy. When analysing the samples, the number of viral genome copies per one millilitre of waste water is assessed. This gives an overview of the number of viruses in the waste water of a particular region.
  • The waste water samples are collected over 24 hours as composite samples, meaning that the samples reflect the average situation of waste water that passed the sewage treatment plant during these 24 hours.
  • The waste water study is a supportive measure for evaluating the spread of the coronavirus. Thus, its results must be interpreted together with other data. For more information and guidelines, representatives of local governments are advised to contact the local Health Board office.

Legend of the map:


If the place name used on the map differs from the name of the municipality, it is due to the operating regions of the sewage treatment plants which may not fully correspond to the borders of municipalities.


Place names marked by an asterisk* signify districts of larger settlements:
*Järve and *Ahtme are districts of Kohtla-Järve

The interactive map may not work as intended when using Internet Explorer. In case of technical issues, we recommend using other browsers (Chrome, Firefox)

The interactive map with previous results can be reached here. 

Map of waste water surveillance results of 27. December - 31. December 2021: 


Rapid review of wastewater survey results from August 2020 to September 2021

The animation summarizes the analysis results of 2140 wastewater samples collected during one year and one month.

Author of the animation: Peeter Laas, Research Fellow in Molecular Ecology at the University of Tartu

What can the waste water samples tell us?


We monitored the presence of positive signal (coronavirus DNA) in the samples. 


The project is led by Professor of Technology of Antimicrobial Compounds of the University of Tartu Tanel Tenson and Senior Research Fellow in Molecular Ecology Veljo Kisand.


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