Recreational waters – A potential transmission route for SARS-CoV-2 to humans?

As the title suggests, this “short communication” paper considers the possibility and likelihood of the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 via exposure through recreational water use.

Potential sources of SARS-CoV-2 in recreational waterways might reasonably be assumed to include shedding from other bathers and contamination from municipal wastewater (sewage). This paper is focused only on consideration of the latter route.

The paper summarises and discusses current evidence for faecal-oral transmission of SARS-CoV-2. In doing so, the authors cite three recent papers which have document the isolation of ‘live’ virus from faecal samples, but note that the viability of this virus in both faecal and wastewater samples is not yet known.

The paper then discusses the effect of wastewater treatment on SARS-CoV-2. The authors observe that although reports have indicated the disinfection process to be a crucial step in wastewater treatment for the reduction in viability of viruses, there is still a possibility of the virus remaining in effluents of wastewater treatment plants.

Although the prevailing consensus is that risks associated with exposure to SARS-CoV-2 via recreational water bodies is low, the authors conclude that some important research gaps remain. They state:

Such research is important to gain a better understanding of the risk associated with contracting the virus in recreational waters and to assist public health authorities in the development and implementation of policies and guidelines for the protection of human health”.


Cahill N and Morris D (2020) Recreational waters – A potential transmission route for SARS-CoV-2 to humans? Science of the Total Environment, 740, 140122.

Published by Stuart Khan

Professor of Civil & Environmental Engineering, University of New South Wales

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