Climate change and energy

Climate and energy – bodies of water under pressure

Climate change and energy production are putting pressure on our bodies of water. Eawag is investigating how climate warming is changing our lakes, rivers and groundwater and what this means for the plants and animals living in them, as well as for humans. Furthermore, it is also researching and developing measures and technologies to protect the climate, promote adaptation to the consequences of climate change and shape the energy transition in an environmentally friendly way.

Energy production and water protection in conflict

The growing demand for climate-friendly hydropower is increasing pressure on our bodies of water. In residual water stretches located downstream of power plants, a large part of the natural run-off is missing. Hydroelectric power plants also cause unnatural dynamics in watercourses and disrupt fish migration. The basis of life for aquatic organisms is thus severely impaired. Hydroelectric power plants can also reduce the water supply for groundwater, our most important source of drinking water.

Impacts of climate change on bodies of water

If the temperature of the atmosphere rises, bodies of water also warm up. Warmer water means stress for some forms of aquatic life. At the same time, others benefit from the warming. This changes the overall species composition. For example, certain algae, some of which are toxic, can better spread and thus harm other living organisms in and around the water. The circulation of the lakes is also altered. As a result, the time period during which the lakes mix their water from the surface to the bottom of the lake in winter becomes shorter. This can lead to an oxygen deficiency at depth and reduce the supply of nutrients in the upper layers of the water, an adverse impact for a great many fish and other aquatic life.

Blue-green infrastructure – cooling cities with water

Heat, drought or extreme precipitation not only cause problems for the environment, but also for us humans, especially in densely built-up cities. Water (blue) in streams, ponds and water basins, as well as plants (green) on roofs, on façades and in green spaces can help cool cities. In order to mitigate the consequences of climate change, there are therefore plans to store more water in urban areas and to manage rainwater and wastewater in a climate-adapted manner.

Minimising the consequences of climate change and the energy transition

Eawag observes and studies how environmental changes and the increasing use of water resources affect aquatic ecosystems and their inhabitants. It uses models to analyse how lakes, rivers and groundwater could develop in the future under different scenarios. Building on this knowledge, Eawag researchers are developing solutions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, minimise the impact of climate change on humans and the environment and make the energy transition sustainable and more climate-friendly.

Network

We work together with a wide variety of partners.

The Hydrology Division is responsible for the protection of surface water, groundwater and drinking water.

Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN)

The Hydrological Forecasts Research Group investigates, among other things, the consequences of climate change on hydrology

Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL)

The Federal Climate Services Network supports climate-compatible decision making in order to minimise risks, maximise opportunities and optimise costs.

National Centre for Climate Services NCCS

The Joint Initiative of the ETH Domain contributes to halving greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 by preparing the necessary infrastructure, building a resilient energy system and protecting biodiversity. 

Speed2zero

The Joint Initiative of the ETH Domain aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.

Scene

Experts

Dr. Christian Binz
  • decentralized systems
  • innovation
  • global change
  • sustainable transitions
  • urban water management
Marc Böhler
  • wastewater treatment
  • activated carbon
  • micropollutants
  • ozonation
  • trace substance elimination
Dr. Nadja Contzen
  • environmental psychology
  • transdisciplinary research
  • behaviour change
  • health psychology
  • public acceptability
Dr. Lauren Cook
  • planning of infrastructure
  • climate change
  • modeling
  • sustainable water management
  • urban water management
Dr. Andreas Frömelt
  • wastewater
  • wastewater treatment
  • data science
  • machine learning
  • modeling
Prof. Dr. Karin Ingold
  • science-policy interface
  • environmental policy
Dr. Adriano Joss
  • wastewater
  • micropollutants
  • ozonation
Prof. Dr. Rolf Kipfer
  • noble gases
  • isotopes
Dr. Ivana Logar
  • sustainable water management
  • Ecosystem services
  • environmental economics
Prof. Dr. Max Maurer
  • wastewater
  • decentralized technologies
  • sustainable water management
  • urban sanitation
  • urban water management
  • urine separation
Dr. Martin Schmid
  • modeling
  • surface water
  • hydropower
  • climate change
  • Lake management
Dr. Olga Schubert
  • microbial ecology
  • biogeochemistry
  • proteomics
  • biomarker
  • microfluidics
Prof. Dr. Bernhard Truffer
  • wastewater
  • decentralized technologies
  • transdisciplinary research
  • hydropower
Prof. Dr. Kai Udert
  • wastewater separation
  • decentralized technologies
  • nutrients
  • urine separation
  • resource recovery
Dr. Christine Weber
  • river restoration
  • ecology
Dr. Christian Zurbrügg
  • solid waste management
  • sustainable water management
  • water treatment
  • urban sanitation
  • water supply

Scientific publications

Gobatti, L.; Bach, P. M.; Scheidegger, A.; Leitão, J. P. (2023) Using satellite imagery to investigate Blue-Green Infrastructure establishment time for urban cooling, Sustainable Cities and Society, 97, 104768 (11 pp.), doi:10.1016/j.scs.2023.104768, Institutional Repository
Lever, J. J.; Van Nes, E. H.; Scheffer, M.; Bascompte, J. (2023) Five fundamental ways in which complex food webs may spiral out of control, Ecology Letters, 26(10), 1765-1779, doi:10.1111/ele.14293, Institutional Repository
Rodriguez, M.; Fu, G.; Butler, D.; Yuan, Z.; Cook, L. (2023) Global resilience analysis of combined sewer systems under continuous hydrologic simulation, Journal of Environmental Management, 344, 118607 (11 pp.), doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2023.118607, Institutional Repository

Cover picture: Here at Lake Aegeri in the canton of Zug, Eawag and FOEN have been using automatic measuring buoys to record the water temperatures of individual lakes in Switzerland since the summer of 2022. (Photo: Mathias Blattmann, Oberägeri, 11 November 2022, Zuger Zeitung)