Wastewater analysis has become the standard for measuring population-scale use of a range of different chemical compounds.  The underlying concepts involved in wastewater analysis are well established in Australia and have been applied to a wide range of licit and illicit drugs. Estimates of drug usage in a population can be back-calculated from measured concentrations of drug metabolites (excreted into the sewer system after consumption) in wastewater samples. Spatial and temporal trends in drug use have been reported using this approach for several sites located primarily in South Australia and Queensland since 2009. The National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program (NWDMP), undertaken through a collaboration between QAESH and the University of South Australia for the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), aims to expand the monitoring of substances of concern to all regions of Australia. The study focuses on thirteen licit and illicit drugs, including tobacco, alcohol, methamphetamine, cocaine and MDMA (ecstasy). Trends in estimated drug consumption will be established over the three-year project. Wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) located across capital cities and regional Australia, covering all States and Territories, have been invited to participate in this program.

Project members

Professor Jochen Mueller

Theme Leader, Emerging Environmental Health Risks