Science Inventory



Overarching Objectives and Links to Multi-Year Planning

This task directly supports the Drinking Water Research Program Multi-Year Plan's long term goal to "develop scientifically sound data and approaches to characterize and manage risks to human health posed by exposure to waterborne pathogens and chemicals" under GRPA Goal 2 (Clean and Safe Water). The overarching objective is to provide the Office of Water, Agency risk assessors and managers, academics, the scientific community, state regulators, water industry and industry spokes groups with exploratory occurrence and exposure data on human enteric viruses. These data will improve the quality of risk-based assessments and tools used by the Agency to set regulations, policies and priorities for protecting human health and allow the Agency to assure the public that the appropriate methods are being used to demonstrate that drinking water is safe from pathogenic agents.

Specific Subtask Objectives:

o Conduct an exploratory occurrence studies on emerging human waterborne pathogenic viruses and viruses on the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) in water (Subtask A; to be completed by 9/05 in support of LTG 1 (due 2010)).

o Determine the relationship of bacterial virus indicators to human enteric virus occurrence in the above studies (Subtask A; to be completed by 9/05 in support of LTG 1 (due 2010)).

o Develop a non-invasive assay for measuring human exposure to viruses (Subtask B; to be completed by 9/05 in support of LTG 1 (due 2010)).


Waterborne outbreaks of virus origin occur at frequencies which require action on the part of the Agency. Yet outbreaks may represent a small fraction of the waterborne disease burden in the U.S. Several recent studies suggest that about 20% of the surface and ground source waters nationwide are contaminated with viruses. It is likely then that a portion of the population is being exposed. This would especially be true in the approximately 80,000 groundwater systems that do not treat their water. Very little occurrence and exposure data are available for human enteric viruses. This type of data is needed to ensure that federally-mandated regulations are based upon sound science and that they result in safe water.

This task is divided into two subtasks: subtask A - Exploratory Occurrence Studies on Waterborne Viruses and subtask B - Exposure Study Methods for Waterborne Viruses. Under subtask A, innovative virus detection techniques are being used to measure enteric viral occurrence in untreated surface and ground waters and in treated drinking water. Water quality microbial indicators are also being measured and their presence compared to the occurrence of viral pathogens. These assessments will serve as a storehouse of data on the long-term trends of viral pathogens. They should also serve to provide cross cutting information on virus survival in terms of waste treatment practices, geological and soil properties, and drinking water treatment technology.

Subtask B focuses on the development of a noninvasive technique for exposure measurements. This technique is needed to conduct exposure studies to determine if human exposure and illness are linked to virus occurrence in drinking water.

Record Details:

Record Type: PROJECT
Start Date: 10/01/2001
Projected Completion Date: 09/01/2006
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 56084