Department Environmental Microbiology

Drinking Water Microbiology

Research areas

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

In source water, we investigate long-term and short-term bacterial dynamics as influenced by natural processes (e.g., seasonal changes, rainfall) and engineered processes (e.g., water extraction).

In drinking water treatment, we study the kinetics of bacterial cell damage during various disinfection processes (e.g., chlorine and ozone) and bacterial growth in biological filters.

In distribution systems, we investigate the principles of bacterial growth at low nutrient concentrations, focusing on assimilable organic carbon, biofilm development, and pathogen growth potential.

Finally, in premise plumbing systems, we study the development of unique microbiomes as influenced by materials in contact with drinking water.


Group Leader

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


Bircher, L.; Geirnaert, A.; Hammes, F.; Lacroix, C.; Schwab, C. (2018) Effect of cryopreservation and lyophilization on viability and growth of strict anaerobic human gut microbes, Microbial Biotechnology, 11(4), 721-733, doi:10.1111/1751-7915.13265, Institutional Repository
Farhat, N.; Hammes, F.; Prest, E.; Vrouwenvelder, J. (2018) A uniform bacterial growth potential assay for different water types, Water Research, 142, 227-235, doi:10.1016/j.watres.2018.06.010, Institutional Repository
Mao, G.; Wang, Y.; Hammes, F. (2018) Short-term organic carbon migration from polymeric materials in contact with chlorinated drinking water, Science of the Total Environment, 613, 1220-1227, doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.09.166, Institutional Repository
Neu, L.; Bänziger, C.; Proctor, C. R.; Zhang, Y.; Liu, W.-T.; Hammes, F. (2018) Ugly ducklings - the dark side of plastic materials in contact with potable water, npj Biofilms and Microbiomes, 4(1), 7 (11 pp.), doi:10.1038/s41522-018-0050-9, Institutional Repository
Besmer, M. D.; Hammes, F.; Sigrist, J. A.; Ort, C. (2017) Evaluating monitoring strategies to detect precipitation-induced microbial contamination events in karstic springs used for drinking water, Frontiers in Microbiology, 8, 2229 (12 pp.), doi:10.3389/fmicb.2017.02229, Institutional Repository
Proctor, C. R.; Gächter, M.; Kötzsch, S.; Rölli, F.; Sigrist, R.; Walser, J.-C.; Hammes, F. (2016) Biofilms in shower hoses-choice of pipe material influences bacterial growth and communities, Environmental Science: Water Research and Technology, 2(4), 670-682, doi:10.1039/c6ew00016a, Institutional Repository


Even with effective drinking water treatment, microbial growth in the household is inevitable and can lead to problems for consumers
Unexpected changes in source water microbial quality can profoundly influence the efficacy of drinking water treatment resulting in potential risk to 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.