Professor Jochen Mueller
Professor Jochen Mueller
3 November 2016

Proceeds of Crime funding will help University of Queensland researchers keep an eye on drugs in Australia’s wastewater.

Queensland Alliance for Environmental Health Sciences (QAEHS) – a UQ research centre funded in partnership with Queensland Health – will collaborate with the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) and the University of South Australia on the project.

ACIC Chief Executive Officer Mr Chris Dawson said 50 sites would be monitored across Australia over the three year duration of the program.

“The National Wastewater Drug Monitoring Pilot Program is a key initiative in establishing an objective evidence base on illicit and licit drug use,” Mr Dawson said.

“Signing the contract signifies that work is now underway to better detect and monitor the level and type of drug use within Australia.

“The proposed breakdown includes 11 sites in Queensland, nine in South Australia, eight in New South Wales, seven in Western Australia, six in Victoria, five in Tasmania, three in the Northern Territory and one in the Australian Capital Territory.”

Wastewater analysis is an innovative approach to detect and monitor drug use.

It provides a measure, rather than an estimate, of the use of numerous illicit drugs, as well as licit drugs including nicotine, alcohol and some pharmaceuticals.

Mr Dawson described wastewater analysis as “arguably the only objective means” of reliably measuring drug usage, as personal surveys were often skewed by inaccurate responses.

“The illicit drug market remains the principal source of profit for organised crime and continues to be a key focus for law enforcement in Australia,” Mr Dawson said.

“Data will provide law enforcement, policy, regulatory and health agencies with additional and more objective data in relation to drug use across the nation.”

Acting Director of QAEHS Professor Nick Shaw said UQ’s involvement was a direct result of past expertise shown in wastewater monitoring.

Earlier this year a UQ research team, led by Professor Jochen Mueller, contributed to a report on the amount of methamphetamine residue found in Queensland wastewater.

The findings showed a 480 per cent increase in a Queensland coastal city between the years 2009 and 2015, and a 340 per cent increase at an inland Queensland regional city.

The incoming Director of QAEHS Professor Kevin Thomas is leading a consortium which analyses sewage in 30 countries.

Media: QAEHS Dr Sharon Grant, +61 0437 511 813,; UQ Communications Robert Burgin, +617 3346 3035, +61 0448 410 364,