Department Urban Water Management

Urban Water Observatory

Spatially-distributed monitoring of the urban water cycle 

The Urban Water Observatory (UWO) is a long-term (5-year) initiative of ETH and Eawag to establish a sensor network in Fehraltorf, allowing spatially-distributed monitoring of urban water cycle processes. It is a coordinated field research lab, a test bed, a sensor lab and a ‘hands-on classroom’ rolled into one. Our primary objectives are:

  • Conduct transdisciplinary environmental research within and at the interfaces of urban water systems
  • Answer pressing questions regarding future developments of water infrastructure
  • Increase transparency and public awareness for and around the urban water cycle

Details about research questions can be found -> here

How and where are we active?

We monitor rainfall, flows, levels and other system states at high spatial density (higher than 1 sensor per hectare) within the sewer network, in rivers and groundwater using modern sensors and innovative wireless data transfer technologies (->LoRaWAN). With this work we aim to better understand the interrelation between rainfall (driver) and the corresponding response processes, including surface runoff, pipe flow, overflow activity, as well as impacts on the adjacent compartments, such as sewage treatment plant, groundwater, and rivers. We will furthermore extend our study's scope by monitoring water quality parameters (ph, conductivity, turbidity).

Overview on UWO monitoring locations (January 2018)

How can the results be utilised?

This unique approach generates spatially-differentiated information on flows of water and matter in an urban environment. Data and metadata are made publicly available for research, soecially for residents living in Fehraltorf.

Through these measurements we gain a better insight into the spatio-temporal system dynamics, enabling us to optimise stormwater and wastewater handling towards a more efficient management and, most and foremost, a better water quality in aquatic ecosystems. Within the scope of this initiative we will test novel analysis techniques (-> DIMES II) and innovative monitoring strategies, such as real-time monitoring and control of system dynamics in urban catchments (LoRaMesh).

Future environmental engineers from ETH obtain insight into the set-up and operation of the Urban Water Observatory. As part of the forward-thinking education at ETH, students learn how to use modern monitoring and analysis techniques with a unique data set.

Rain gauge "School"

Who do we collaborate with?

Setting up such a sensor network would not be possible without the support from the municipality of Fehraltorf and its residents. We receive further support from surrounding communities, as well as local enterprises in various ways. For this, we would like to express our sincere thanks to all supporters!


11-Dec-2017 – Monitoring pollution dynamics: high-precision measurements of wastewater quality with self-sustained UV-Vis spectrophotometers


Dr. Frank BlumensaatTel. +41 58 765 5626Send Mail

Project team

Christian EbiTel. +41 58 765 5992Send Mail
Simon DichtTel. +41 58 765 6472Send Mail

Project partners