Department Environmental Microbiology

Drinking Water Microbiology

Research areas

Our group in general focuses on measuring and understanding the behavior and ecology of bacteria in drinking water systems from source to tap, using state-of-the-art methods and bridging basic research questions with real-life applications.

Currently, our main research projects deal with the microbiome of drinking water in building plumbing systems. We study basic aspects of biofilm formation with emphasis on flexible polymeric materials in contact with potable water and we explore the potential of so-called probiotic bacterial communities in plumbing systems.

We furthermore specifically investigate Legionella contamination in buildings, including the environmental drivers, ecological interactions, and possible mitigation strategies.

For a full list of publications, please visit: Google Scholar

Group Leader

Dr. Frederik HammesGroup LeaderTel. +41 58 765 5372Send Mail


Jürg SigristTel. +41 58 765 5288Send Mail
Dr. William RhoadsPostdocTel. +41 58 765 5429Send Mail
Céline MargotPhD StudentTel. +41 58 765 6857Send Mail
Alessio CavallaroPhD StudentTel. +41 58 765 6682Send Mail
Nadine GrafTel. +41 58 765 5049Send Mail

Selected publications

Neu, L.; Proctor, C. R.; Walser, J.-C.; Hammes, F. (2019) Small-scale heterogeneity in drinking water biofilms, Frontiers in Microbiology, 10, 2446 (14 pp.), doi:10.3389/fmicb.2019.02446, Institutional Repository
Schertenleib, A.; Sigrist, J.; Friedrich, M. N. D.; Ebi, C.; Hammes, F.; Marks, S. J. (2019) Construction of a low-cost mobile incubator for field and laboratory use, Journal of Visualized Experiments, e58443 (17 pp.), doi:10.3791/58443, Institutional Repository
Props, R.; Rubbens, P.; Besmer, M.; Buysschaert, B.; Sigrist, J.; Weilenmann, H.; Waegeman, W.; Boon, N.; Hammes, F. (2018) Detection of microbial disturbances in a drinking water microbial community through continuous acquisition and advanced analysis of flow cytometry data, Water Research, 145, 73-82, doi:10.1016/j.watres.2018.08.013, Institutional Repository
Proctor, C. R.; Besmer, M. D.; Langenegger, T.; Beck, K.; Walser, J.-C.; Ackermann, M.; Bürgmann, H.; Hammes, F. (2018) Phylogenetic clustering of small low nucleic acid-content bacteria across diverse freshwater ecosystems, ISME Journal, 12, 1344-1359, doi:10.1038/s41396-018-0070-8, Institutional Repository
Proctor, C. R.; Reimann, M.; Vriens, B.; Hammes, F. (2018) Biofilms in shower hoses, Water Research, 131, 274-286, doi:10.1016/j.watres.2017.12.027, Institutional Repository


Inhalation of legionella bacteria – which thrive in warm water – can cause illness: in a new project, an Eawag-led multidisciplinary research team is investigating how the risks associated with these bacteria can best be managed.
Even with effective drinking water treatment, microbial growth in the household is inevitable and can lead to problems for consumers
Improvement of methods for testing the influences of polymeric materials on drinking water quality and preventative measures for commissioning of new domestic pipe systems.
Biofilms on materials in contact with potable water can be manipulated due to their dependencies on material composition.