Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology

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Logo of the Eawag

The Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag, German acronym for Eidgenössische Anstalt für Wasserversorgung, Abwasserreinigung und Gewässerschutz)[1] is a Swiss water research institute and an internationally networked institution. As part of the Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology Domain, it is an institution of the Swiss Confederation.

After its foundation in 1936 it concentrated on wastewater treatment and drinking water supplies. From these beginnings it has expanded into a multidiciplinary research institute with a focus on three primary research areas: water as a foundation of health and well-being, water as an essential factor in the functioning of our ecological systems, and strategies for the mitigation of water use conflicts. Nowadays, with a staff of over 500 employees, Eawag is actively engaged in research, teaching and consulting in all areas pertaining to water. The Eawag is based in Dübendorf near Zurich and Kastanienbaum near Lucerne. Eawag's overall aim is to ensure the sustainable use of water resources and infrastructure and to harmonize the ecological, economic and social interests associated with bodies of water. In doing so, the Eawag plays an important role in bridging research and practice.

Eawag shares the campus at Dübendorf near Zurich with Empa
Eawag Dübendorf, Forum Chriesbach
Eawag Kastanienbaum


The Eawag was founded in 1936 as an information centre of the ETH Zurich for wastewater treatment and drinking water supplies. The Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) grew out of this original information centre and increasingly devoted its energies to developing integrated approaches to water management and protection. The Eawag has left its mark on recent Swiss water management and protection history by providing the foundations necessary for those achievements. In 1970, the Eawag became an annex institution of ETH Zurich, before becoming an independent water research institute within the ETH domain in 1993. In 1968 the International Reference Centre for Waste Disposal IRCWD of the WHO was founded, out of which the current Department for Sanitation, Water and Solid Waste for Development (Sandec) emerged. In 2004 the Fishing Information Centre FIBER, in 2008 the Water Agenda 21 and the Ecotox Centre, and in 2010 the centres of excellence CEEB and CCDW were founded. The headquarters of the Eawag is located in Dübendorf near Zurich, where in 2007 the building Forum Chriesbach, the winner of numerous environmental awards, was built. Since 1960, the Eawag has been operating a research laboratory in Kastanienbaum near Lucerne. The research institute of that earlier period is today an internationally oriented water research institute which unites the efforts of research, teaching and consulting as well as a combination of natural, engineering and social sciences.

Historical overview[edit]

1936: Founding of the Information Centre of the ETH for Wastewater Treatment and Drinking Water Supplies

1946: The information centre is transformed into an ETH associated institute with the name "EAWAG" (Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology).

1960: Takeover of the hydrobiological laboratory in Kastanienbaum.

1968: Formation of the International Reference Centre for Waste Disposal of the WHO, out of which the current Department of Sanitation, Water and Solid Waste for Development (Sandec) emerged.

1970: EAWAG becomes an annex institute of the ETH Zurich and moves to Dübendorf.

1993: EAWAG becomes an independent water research institute within the ETH domain.

2004: Founding of the Fishing Information Centre at the EAWAG.

2005: The institute′s was changed from EAWAG to Eawag, which came together with a redesigned logo.[3]

2006: Construction of Forum Chriesbach in Dübendorf.[4]

2008: Founding of Water Agenda 21 and the Ecotoxicology Centre.

2010: Founding of the two centres of excellence CEEB (Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Biogeochemistry) and CCDW (Competence Centre for Drinking Water)

Eawag Directors[edit]

Term Director
1952-1970 Prof. Dr. Otto Jaag[5]
1970-1992 Prof. Dr. Werner Stumm
1992-2004 Prof. Dr. Alexander J.B. Zehnder
2004-2007 Dipl. Ing. Ulrich Bundi (ad interim)
Since 2007 Prof. Dr. Janet Hering


As a water research institute Eawag has three major focus areas:

  • Water for Human Welfare

Safe drinking water supply and waste-water disposal are essential to maintain human welfare. Eawag research projects aim to develop optimum approaches and strategies to meet future threats caused by increasing contamination, population growth, and climate change.

  • Water for Ecosystem Function

The increasing pressure of civilisation has a negative influence on the water environment and ecosystems. Developing strategies and measures to both strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of ecosystems and to maintain a sustainable provision of ecosystem services is another focus of Eawag research.

  • Strategies for Trade-offs and Competing Demands

Water use conflicts arise when direct human needs for water and the prevention of negative impacts on ecosystems have to be accommodated at the same time. Eawag research projects develop integrated approaches and put specific emphasis on strategies to meet energy concerns in the context of trade-offs and competing demands.

The Eawag directs and participates in interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary projects in order to combine pure research with concrete problem-solving in practice. Together with external partners and various Eawag departments, research initiatives emerge which further the pursuit of projects from holistic perspectives.

The Eawag has twelve research departments, where research is conducted by natural and social scientists and engineers. This combination permits a wide range of water research.

Research departments:

  • Surface Waters (Surf) - researches and manages aquatic system processes.
  • Aquatic Ecology (Eco) - investigates life in water and encompasses various disciplines within ecology and evolutionary biology.
  • Fish Ecology and Evolution (Fishec) - investigates the way of life, the evolution and the biodiversity of aquatic organisms, most especially fish.
  • Environmental Chemistry (Uchem) - researches the effect of contaminants in waters and reduction for improving water quality.
  • Environmental Microbiology (Umik) - deals with micorbial life and activities in surface and ground water, in drinking water and in technical systems such as wastewater treatment and drinking water treatment plants.
  • Environmental Toxicology (Utox) - aims to recognize and understand the effects of chemicals on the aquatic environment.
  • Water Resource and Drinking Water - (W+T) - researches physical and chemical processes in bodies of water with the aim of ensuring the long-term quantity and quality of drinking water.
  • Process Engineering (Eng) - deals with current and future problems of wastewater and drinking water treatment, as well as the protection of water resources and resource recycling.
  • Urban Water Management (SWW) - strives to develop sustainable concepts for water and nutrient cycles in urban areas.
  • Sanitation, Water and Solid Waste for Development (Sandec) - by enhancing local competencies, Sandec contributes to improvements in water supply and wastewater management in developing countries.
  • System Analysis, Integrated Assessment and Modelling (Siam) - develops models and techniques in order to understand and predict processes which affect water and other natural resources.
  • Environmental Social Sciences (ESS) - investigates environment-related societal processes from the background of several social science disciplines.


The Eawag supports universities in educating undergraduate and doctoral candidates in the natural, engineering and social sciences. Numerous master’s students and doctoral candidates from within the country and from abroad are supervised and guided in projects pertaining to water research every year. In addition, approximately 26 apprentices are trained in laboratory, commercial or IT-related areas. Furthermore, the Eawag offers specialists in water resources management, administration and science regular courses in further education (PEAK – practice oriented Eawag courses). The courses are based on current research work and experience and help to promote communication exchanges of knowledge and experience between research and practice. In the area of further education, six research scholarships are granted to undergraduate and doctoral candidates from developing countries each year within the framework of the Partnership Program for Developing Countries (EPP).


By promoting consulting as well as knowledge and technology transfer, research findings are implemented in practice. The Eawag carries out various advisory mandates both inland and abroad including, for example, for the Swiss Confederation, Cantons and NGOs. Eawag specialists sit as experts in numerous national and international boards and committees. The Eawag aquatic research institute is, moreover, home to various specialist advisory centres:

  • The Swiss Centre for Applied Ecotoxicology Eawag – EPFL, which develops and communicates scientific foundations and methods for the recognition, assessment and reduction of risks arising from the use of chemicals.
  • The Fisheries Advisory Office (FIBER), a centre for information and further education for recreational and professional fishermen as well as laymen or specialists interested in fish-related issues, water bodies and fisheries management.
  • The Water-Agenda 21, an association of various actors who help support the development of strategies for water resource management oriented towards the principles of sustainable development.
  • SODIS (Solar Water Disinfection), a project engaged with securing access to clean drinking water in developing countries. The SODIS method is a simple process for disinfecting drinking water which uses sunlight to kill off pathogenic agents such as viruses, parasites and bacteria.[6]


Eawag researchers have received national and international awards for their achievements. The most important awards include:

  • 2012: Special Recognition Award for outstanding design at the 'Re-invent the Toilet' competition sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for Dr. Tove Larsen et al.
  • 2012: The Dr. J.E. Brandenberger Prize[7] for Martin Wegelin
  • 2011: IWA Development Solutions Award for Sandec[8]
  • 2010: Muelheim Water Award for Prof. Dr. Thomas Egli
  • 2010: The Federal Cross of Merit for Prof. Dr. Alexander J.B. Zehnder
  • 2009: Vietnamese Medal of Honour for outstanding achievements in teaching and professional training in Vietnam for Michael Berg, Walter Giger, Antoine Morel and Roland Schertenleib
  • 2008: Credit Suisse Award for Best Teaching for Prof. Dr. Willi Gujer
  • 2008: Transdisciplinarity Award for the Novaquatis project for Dr. Tove Larsen and Dr. Judit Lienert
  • 2007: Watt d’Or for the energy efficiency of the Eawag building ‘Forum Chriesbach’
  • 2006: Muehlheim Water Award for Dr. Marc Böhler
  • 2004: Energy Globe Award for SODIS
  • 1999: Stockholm Water Prize for Prof. Dr. Werner Stumm
  • 1990: Marcel Benoist Prize for Prof. Dr. Werner Stumm (as well as Bruno Messerli and Hans Oeschger)

In 1980 the «Otto-Jaag-Gewässerschutz-Preis» fund was set up in order to honor dissertations and master’s theses at the ETH Zurich in the area of water protection and hydrology. Numerous young Eawag researchers have been recipients of this award since then.

Notes and references[edit]


  • Andri Bryner, Matthias Nast: Eawag: past, present and future, April 2011, (online)
  • Daniel Wentz: Research Center in Switzerland, 2007 Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, Zurich, (online)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]