For World Water Day 2022, the United Nations is focusing on our groundwater – an invisible treasure that it wants to bring into the social and political spotlight. For Eawag, groundwater as a resource has long been one of its most important research priorities. An overview.
Groundwater serves as drinking water for around half of the world’s population and provides water for over 40 percent of the world’s agriculture. So, there is no question that groundwater research plays an important role at Eawag. The aquatic research institute deals with groundwater quality, the regeneration of groundwater, geochemical processes in the subsurface and the treatment of groundwater to produce drinking water, both nationally and internationally. In this way, Eawag contributes to understanding the natural and anthropogenic impacts on groundwater, which is essential for the supply of drinking water, but also for the protection of the resource and associated ecosystems such as rivers, lakes and wetlands.
Specialists at work – whether SDGs, machine learning or modelling
For instance, Eawag researchers are developing and refining science-based criteria for the assessment and modelling of water resources. “Our criteria are based on a detailed understanding of physical, chemical, mineralogical and biogeochemical processes, and Eawag excels in researching how they are linked,” explains Michael Berg, Head of the Water Resources and Drinking Water Department. “The studies range from molecular to macroscopic scales, from test tubes to urban water supplies and from river basins to subcontinental regions,” Berg continues.
In recent years, Berg says, Eawag has also pioneered new statistical techniques and the use of machine learning to estimate the risk of natural (geogenic) contamination using geological, topographical and other environmental data, without having to examine all groundwater wells. For this purpose, corresponding risk maps for safe and unsafe groundwater were drawn up at the regional to global level.