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 Hammes Group Leader Tel. +41 58 765 5372 Send Mail


Alessio Cavallaro PhD Student Tel. +41 58 765 6682 Send Mail
Dr. Marco Gabrielli Postdoctoral Researcher Tel. +41 58 765 5960 Send Mail
Johanna Kohler MSc Student Tel. +41 58 765 6411 Send Mail
Jürg Sigrist Tel. +41 58 765 5288 Send Mail

Selected publications

Cavallaro, A.; Rhoads, W. J.; Huwiler, S. G.; Stachler, E.; Hammes, F. (2022) Potential probiotic approaches to control Legionella in engineered aquatic ecosystems, FEMS Microbiology Ecology, 98(8), 1-9, doi:10.1093/femsec/fiac071, Institutional Repository
Rhoads, W.; Hammes, F. (2021) Growth of Legionella during COVID-19 lockdown stagnation, Environmental Science: Water Research and Technology, 7(1), 10 (6 pp.), doi:10.1039/D0EW00819B, Institutional Repository
Neu, L.; Hammes, F. (2020) Feeding the building plumbing microbiome: the importance of synthetic polymeric materials for biofilm formation and management, Water, 12(6), 1774 (17 pp.), doi:10.3390/w12061774, Institutional Repository
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


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.
Biofilms on materials in contact with potable water can be manipulated due to their dependencies on material composition.