Energy research at Eawag

Within the framework of the ETH Domain’s strategic area of focus «Energy», Eawag investigates the environmental impacts of energy production, the acceptance of alternative energy supply, the potential for energy savings and energy production from wastewater.

Impacts of energy production on water bodies

The use of our water bodies for hydropower or for heating and cooling influences a river’s bed load and sediment regime as well as its aquatic organisms. Eawag researchers study the environmental impacts of energy production and are actively engaged in consulting, for example concerning nuclear energy or methane extraction from lakes.



An ecological longterm study of the Spöl River, Swiss National Park, to experimental high flows since 1999, including redd counts of brown trout, macroinvertebrates, periphyton and water physico-chemistry at periodic times during each year.
How does such compromised bed-load transport affect fish in terms of their feeding and habitat? And what measures can be taken to restore a river's bed-load regime?
The renaturing platform that was set up in the summer of 2014 serves to promote the low-threshold exchange of experi- ence and knowledge between key players in a variety of specialist fields and institutions.
Les cours d'eau font partie des écosystèmes les plus riches en espèces du monde. Mais en même temps ils sont mis sous forte pression, p. ex. du fait des aménagements et de l'exploita- tion de la force hydraulique.
Small hydropower plants may affect river ecosystems in various ways due to changes in flow regimes and blocking of movement of aquatic organisms

More projects involving Eawag researchers

Wasser-Agenda 21 (website in German and French)
Dialogue platform of the Swiss water management dealing, among other things, with hydropower use and hydro-peaking.

African Dams Project (ADAPT) completed
Integrated water resource management in the multiply dammed Zambezi basin

Green Hydropower (report in German) completed
Interdisciplinary Eawag project in which an eco-label for sustainable electricity production from hydropower has been developed

Sustainable floodplain management and hydropower (NFP 70)

Actions to ensure a gentle downstream fish passage at hydropower plants completed

Modelling of habitat dynamics in river sections subject to surges completed

Heating and cooling

Lakes store large amounts of heat. To what extent can this heat be used to replace the use of fossil fuels or electricity for heating and cooling purposes?


The intricacies of Lake Kivu and of the methane stored in its deep waters could easily keep an entire research institute busy. Our research aims at creating the knowledge needed to support a sustainable and safe exploitation of the methane resource.

Nuclear energy

Social impacts of the energy transition

Environmental social sciences mainly address the social impacts of the energy transition such as the acceptance of hydropower or of alternative energy supply.

This project aims at providing a better insight into the public preferences of the Swiss population for the suggested hydropower expansion.
Coalitions and actor strategies with respect to the issue of hydraulic fracturing in Switzerland and the UK.

Saving and producing energy

Nutrient recovery, e.g. nitrogen and phosphorus from urine, saves a lot of energy because less artificial fertiliser has to be synthesised by an energy-intensive process. Not only nutrients can be recovered from wastewater, but also heat and other forms of energy. Therefore, future wastewater treatment plants may act as power plants.

Nutrient recovery

NEST building
Sustainable urban water and wastewater management applied and implemented in the modular NEST building.
We develop reactors for the separate treatment of urine, feces and water directly in the toilet.
By recovering nutrients from urine, we develop a sanitation system, which produces a valuable fertiliser

Energy production and saving

NEST building
Sustainable urban water and wastewater management applied and implemented in the modular NEST building.
The SEEK project aims to increase revenue potential by processing sludge together with other urban waste streams into fuel pellets and electricity through gasification.

Sustainable building