Increase implementation of Wastewater Analysis in Emerging Drug Markets


The proposed initiative seeks to generate guidelines relevant to implementing wastewater analysis (WWA) in emerging drug markets. Presently, wastewater analysis is a useful tool in assessing trends in drug consumption in local municipal markets. However, wastewater has so far only been used with regularity to detect changes in drug consumption patterns in Europe and Australia. Other countries have employed WWA sporadically. Challenges as to the limitations of employing WWA more regularly have not been catalogued with an eye to overcoming implementation challenges. This multi-year project seeks to analyze the barriers to implementing WWA in emerging markets and build best practices, learned from regions and countries that have extensive experience with WWA, for countries interested in undertaking WWA, either regularly or on an ad-hoc basis. The project will study the implementation challenges in various interested countries (e.g., logistic, financial, legal). It will then engage with relevant researchers and policy groups implementing WWA to establish and disseminate relevant best practices or strategies aimed at overcoming implementation barriers.

Accomplishments to Date

UNODC has documented sites or countries that have used WWA in recent years. UNODC maintains working relationships with several key partners engaged in WWA. 

Project Activities
  • Activity 1 assessment of new countries where WWA could be implemented, prioritizing emerging markets in Africa and Asia. As synthetic drugs increasingly emerge in new markets, efforts are needed to improve early detection. Challenges of fielding expensive user surveys may be overcome through passive collection systems, like WWA, depending on level of infrastructure and capacity. UNODC will undertake capacity assessments to determine which emerging markets in Asia and Africa could conceivably undertake WWA given water treatment infrastructure, public wastewater systems or communal toilets, lab capacity, and sampling/testing protocols. 
  • Activity 2 training countries that are identified as potential users of WWA. The project will collect other best practices from stakeholders currently engaged in WWA in early warning systems and provide technical capacity and training to countries deemed likely to be able to implement WWA given existing capacity, i.e., existence of public water systems, existence of public toilets, capable laboratories, etc. Country-specific guidelines may need to be established based on the realities on the ground. For example, generating best practices for collecting samples from public toilets or latrines should a country not have sewer or wastewater systems.  
  • Activity 3 implementing WWA in selected countries. After reaching out to interested jurisdictions or countries, UNODC will work with local stakeholders to implement WWA in specific areas where possible, taking into account realities on the ground. 
Global Level Outcomes

Increase implementation of WWA in emerging drug markets, especially in countries with limited resources, through the adoption of WWA best practices and strategies, with the eventual goal of publishing findings from such analysis to inform drug policymaking. 

National Level Outcomes

Increase implementation of WWA in emerging drug markets. 


Angela Me, UNODC, Angela [dot] Me [at] un [dot] org (Angela[dot]Me[at]un[dot]org)