DBU: Viruses in bank filtration - In-situ monitoring and risk management with special consideration of the influence of extreme weather events (VIRUMEX)


Bank filtration is a common method for sustainable drinking water production especially in regions with limited groundwater. Contaminants in surface waters, as e.g., pathogens like viruses and bacteria, can pose a risk for the drinking water production through bank filtration. Especially extreme weather events (heavy rain and floods) can lead to increased concentrations of pathogens in surface waters.

In the current by law required measurement program for the quality assessment of drinking water only a few bacteria species and indicators are included.

The new EU drinking water guideline added somatic coliphages as viral indicator, but those are not human pathogenic viruses, which are more difficult to measure. However, research has shown that the transport behavior in groundwater for bacteria, coliphages and human pathogenic viruses can differ significantly (concentration differences over multiple orders of magnitude possible).

Project Aims

VIRUMEX aims to help waterworks facilities, which use bank filtration, to perform a scientifically sound and model-based risk analysis for human pathogenic viruses, as demanded by the Water-Safety-Plan concept of the WHO. We try to:

  • develop innovative measurement technology for human pathogenic viruses in groundwater usable without significant laboratory effort
  • compile recommendations including an adaptive monitoring concept for viruses in a risk-based management approach especially considering the effect of extreme weather events


For the detection of human pathogenic viruses in groundwater (focus on adenoviruses), a “virus measurement chip” is to be developed, which functions as a passive collector in groundwater monitoring wells, and which can be analyzed via automatized fluorescence microscopy. A deployment system for the technology in typical groundwater monitoring wells will be developed in laboratory experiments. The system will also be tested in-situ and validated with conventional methods for example at active waterworks facilities with bank filtration, or at the riverbank of naturally infiltration surface waters.

To study the impact of extreme weather events on the removal of viruses in bank filtration, sampling campaigns for surface and groundwater with analytics for viruses will be carried out at multiple bank filtration locations during and after heavy rains and floods. Building on the collected data and on a virus transport model from a previous project, an adaptive monitoring concept will be developed for potential virus contaminations in bank filtration.

Project details

Project coordination

TU Berlin
Project lead: Prof. Dr. Irina Engelhardt
Associate: N.N.

Cooperation partners

Medipan GmbH

Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung

Involved stakeholders


Berliner Wasserbetriebe

Kommunale Wasserwerke Leipzig GmbH

Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Wasserversorger im Einzugsgebiet der Elbe (AWE)

Wasserversorgung Rheinhessen-Pfalz GmbH


This project is funded by the Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt (DBU, engl.: German Federal Environmental Foundation).

Project period: 2022-2025