Waste Water Testing for drugs

APAC offers a solution for collecting and analysing waste water for drugs. A collection system has been developed, which draws waste water over 24 hours. The sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis. The test will generate a report, which lists the detected drugs in the sewer. Our clients include correctional centres as well as work places.

Sampling and analysis of waste water is an objective way of determining drug usage in a defined population like a prison, a mining site or similar. In contrast to interviewing people about their drug usage, even under confidentiality, analysis of waster water will objectively provide you with a list of what is in the sewer. Furthermore, if you collect more than one sample over a period of time, waste water analysis can provide patterns of drug consumption.

APAC Security has developed a sampling system, which draws waste water from a sewer over 24 hours. After collection, the sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis of drugs from the waste water sample.

With access to a waster water sample alone, the analysis provides a list of detected drugs.

In addition, if you are interested in finding out how much of the drug that was consumed over the sampling period, the following additional information is required:

  • Catchment population – how many people were active in the area from where we collected the sample?
  • Volume of waste water passing through during sampling. The concentration of the analysed drug (metabolite) multiplied with the amount of waste water flowing by, will give the total mass of the consumed drug (metabolite) during sampling. The volume can for example be calculated from how much water that circulates through the sewer pump(s).  Another less accurate method is to calculate the volume from the water bill.

Different drugs metabolises differently and by looking up the excretion rate for the particular drug, one can now translate the above to a calculated consumption of the drug.

The picture below provides a summary of how consumed drugs is calculated.


Picture: Schematic of the population catchment area and methodology employed to convert measured concentration of substances in wastewater to mass loads or doses consumed per day per normalised population.  Source: Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program—Report 10


ACIC has funded the National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Program for a number of years. Currently, the report covers around 43 per cent of the population, which equates to about 10 million people. Fifty-three wastewater treatment plants across Australia participated in the December 2019 collection, which monitored the consumption of 13 substances.

Read more about the national waster water monitoring program here

If you would like to know more about how we can help you to test for drugs in the waste water at your workplace or correctional centre, please drop us an email with your contact details.