News - Current Eawag contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

September 27, 2022

September 27, 2022Janet Hering, Director of the aquatic research institute Eawag, signed a cooperation agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Monday 26 September 2022. The cooperation between Eawag and the IAEA should help to further advance groundwater research and support the sustainable utilisation of groundwater resources.

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September 23, 2022

September 23, 2022Insects that live entirely or partly in freshwater have a much lower proportion of invasive species than insects that live on land. This is shown in a study by the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL in collaboration with the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology Eawag and an international team of researchers.

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September 22, 2022

September 22, 2022The smallest of all plastic particles have remained largely unexplored until now, because they could not be detected in the environment. Now researchers at Eawag show: Nanoplastics stick to slimy biofilms, which can for example be found on stones in streams or rivers. When freshwater snails feed on the slime, the nanoplastics are taken up.

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September 16, 2022

September 16, 2022The “Water Wall” developed by Eawag researchers recycles handwashing and toilet flushing water in a closed cycle and can therefore be used in regions with scarce water resources or those without water and wastewater networks. Now the project has been awarded the Mülheim Water Award.

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September 1, 2022

September 1, 2022For a long time professional fishermen have known that there is not just one whitefish species in Switzerland, but a whole range of species each with their own specialization and local name. Researchers have now analysed the entire genome of the various whitefish and shown how specialists have all developed independently of each other in each lake region.

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August 24, 2022

August 24, 2022Of over a thousand lakes studied worldwide, about one in ten shows strange behaviour. In general, there is an increasing tendency for aquatic ecosystems to tip over. The ecological stability of lakes is decreasing, especially in regions with low GDP and large human populations.

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August 11, 2022

August 11, 2022As an additive in toothpaste, it protects our teeth from decay. But when fluoride occurs in nature in larger quantities and accumulates in groundwater, it can become a hazard for our health. For the first time, Eawag scientists have produced a detailed map of global fluoride contamination in groundwater and shown which regions of the world are particularly affected.

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August 9, 2022

August 9, 2022Throughout Switzerland, infections with bacteria of the genus Legionella are increasing significantly. Researchers at Eawag have now outlined how the growth of these microbial inhabitants of drinking water systems could be curbed with the help of other organisms.

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August 4, 2022

August 4, 202225 years ago, urine-diverting toilets were no more than an idea, challenging the central paradigm of wastewater treatment plants. Since then, however, modular water technologies have become increasingly important. Using a new method, scientists at Eawag have mapped the dynamics of this transition.

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July 28, 2022

July 28, 2022Over the last six years, more than 160,000 people around the world have participated in online courses offered by Eawag, thus acquiring valuable knowledge about, for example, sanitation systems or municipal solid waste management.

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July 19, 2022

July 19, 2022Even though industrial wastewater is treated at state-of-the art plants, the sheer variety of synthetic organic compounds from the chemical and pharmaceutical industry which end up in surface waters are seriously underestimated. This is shown by a new study carried out by Eawag and ETH Zurich.

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July 18, 2022

July 18, 2022A study published today in Nature Microbiology highlights the great advantage of wastewater monitoring as being rapid, unbiased and cost-effective: the detection of genomic variants of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater offers an early alert and can be based on fewer samples as compared to clinical samples. The bioinformatics tool developed by the groups of Niko Beerenwinkel and Tanja Stadler (ETH, Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering) in collaboration with Eawag and EPFL identifies variants of concern even at low abundance.

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July 18, 2022

July 18, 2022As part of a new national research programme that aims to replace animal experiments in research, the National Science Foundation is supporting a project at Eawag. This opens up new possibilities for determining the toxicity of chemical substances based solely on tests with cultured cells and computer models. Animal experiments could thus be replaced.

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June 28, 2022

June 28, 2022Africa is home to a large part of the world's biodiversity. Many species are native only to this continent. So far, the genome of only a tiny proportion of them has been decoded, but this is an important prerequisite for their protection. The large-scale African BioGenome Project, in which Eawag researchers are also involved, now aims to change this.

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June 27, 2022

June 27, 2022A facility with experimental ponds for field trials is located on the Eawag site in Dübendorf. The current experiment is investigating how the water lily aphid - a herbivore that lives both on land and on water - influences the development of the biocoenosis in water bodies.

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June 23, 2022

June 23, 2022Lake Greifensee is almost on Eawag’s “doorstep” and is therefore used extensively for its water research. Last Friday, interested visitors learned about how the researchers work and what they have discovered about the lake during an enjoyable boat trip. There will be another opportunity for this in autumn.

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June 22, 2022

June 22, 2022Using DNA data, researchers from ETH and Eawag have examined seawater to find not only new species of bacteria, but also previously unknown natural products that may one day prove beneficial as they report today in the journal Nature.

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June 16, 2022

June 16, 2022It is no secret that climate change has a serious impact on the quality and ecology of aquatic environments. Researchers at Eawag have revealed that human responses to climate change are just as impactful on our water systems – for example, in the areas of agriculture and hydropower.

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June 14, 2022

June 14, 2022In the future, drones could open up new possibilities for taking water samples fully automatically in remote areas. To this end, Eawag researchers tested a drone model developed at Empa and Imperial College.

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June 9, 2022

June 9, 2022Eawag’s research is usually reported on in scientific papers and media articles. Rather unusual, however, is the form of a comic. Illustrator Celine Künzle took a close-up look at Eawag’s research with faeces and recorded her impressions in the recently-published comic report.

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June 2, 2022

June 2, 2022Dominik Scheibler has been Eawag’s Environmental representative since 2021. On the occasion of Environmental Day on June 5, he tells us where Eawag stands in the field of the environment and energy, what the coronavirus could change and what the next milestones are, for example in the context of renewable heat supply.

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May 31, 2022

May 31, 2022The biologically active, slow-flow sand filters of lake water treatment would remove nanoplastics from the raw water very efficiently. This was shown both in the laboratory and in larger, realistic tests and modelling.

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May 13, 2022

May 13, 2022As of 1 May 2022, Andrin Krähenbühl will head the FIBER fisheries advisory service at the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) in Kastanienbaum. The biologist and angler brings with him experience from research and association work. And he is convinced that it serves everyone if the institutions work well together: fisheries, research and biodiversity.

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May 9, 2022

May 9, 2022Oliver Schilling is newly appointed Professor of Hydrogeology at the University of Basel, where he is setting up a research group that is also associated with the Eawag Water Resources and Drinking Water Department in Dübendorf. This dual affiliation is perfect, says Schilling.

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May 5, 2022

May 5, 2022Eawag researchers Sabine Hoffmann, Kai Udert and Lisa Deutsch are committed to a sanitation and nutrient transformation. They use an example to explain why a transformation is needed and why collaboration with politicians in particular is a challenge.

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May 4, 2022

May 4, 2022What has been a purification process in wastewater treatment plants for decades can also be used decentrally or semi-centrally as a recycling process for nutrients. Early separation of "solid and liquid" plays a key role here. It allows for flexible solutions in terms of process technology, especially in the treatment of urine. New studies also show that the processes can be used not only for human urine, but also for that of cows or pigs.

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April 14, 2022

April 14, 2022Chlorination of drinking water reduces infections – and it changes the composition of the intestinal flora of young children, as a study published today in “Nature Microbiology” shows. The results indicate that the diversity of the intestinal flora isn’t reduced and bacteria associated with gut health are increased.

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April 11, 2022

April 11, 2022Monitoring freshwater ecosystems by means of environmental DNA methods offers new opportunities for detecting invasive species. An Eawag study has shown that an invasive jellyfish is more widespread in Switzerland than previously thought.

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March 29, 2022

March 29, 2022Artificial floods mimick natural flows to mobilise and transport sediment downstream, reshape the river and reinstate important habitats for native aquatic insects and fish. Improved outcomes can occur when these artificial floods converge with natural flows and sediment delivery from unregulated tributary streams further down the valley.

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March 24, 2022

March 24, 2022New research findings, and a resulting fact sheet, provide insights into the problematic spread of the invasive quagga mussel in Switzerland. The authors of the fact sheet are concerned that the aggressive spread of this mussel species will have a substantial detrimental effect on lake ecosystems.

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March 23, 2022

March 23, 2022Among aquatic insects in Swiss streams, those species that like it warm and can cope well with pesticide exposure are on the rise. This is shown by a joint study by WSL and Eawag using data from biodiversity monitoring between 2010 and 2019. The results indicate a possible influence of climate change.

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March 22, 2022

March 22, 2022For 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.

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March 18, 2022

March 18, 2022What is the state of groundwater in Switzerland? On World Water Day, we discussed this with hydrogeologist Christian Moeck, who, as an employee of the Eawag Hydrogeology Research Group, deals with the pressing challenges surrounding groundwater and researches how groundwater can be protected as a resource.

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March 7, 2022

March 7, 2022Researchers decipher how the microbial inhabitants of sewage treatment plants help eliminate intestinal parasites / Article published in ‘Microbiome’.

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March 1, 2022

March 1, 2022The use of lake and river water to generate heat and cold is constantly increasing. The potential is enormous. Nevertheless, negative impacts on aquatic ecosystems must be avoided. A fact sheet from Eawag lists the key points in this regard.

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February 24, 2022

February 24, 2022Nearly a hundred year old tissue samples from Lake Constance have enabled Eawag researchers to compare genetic material of an extinct whitefish species with that of extant co-occurring species. Their investigation showed that fragments of the genome of the extinct species have survived in today’s species. This could potentially facilitate the recolonization of the currently not occupied deep-water habitat.

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February 17, 2022

February 17, 2022Often overlooked until now: symbioses could be a driving force for the emergence of biodiversity. A case where bacteria live in aphids shows that this can even have practical implications for biological pest control.

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February 10, 2022

February 10, 2022Eawag researchers have won a competition organised by Britain’s National Centre for the Replacement, Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research (NC3R). The prize money is awarded for use in research to develop technologies to replace animal testing.

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February 9, 2022

February 9, 2022Wastewater treatment plants are ‘hotspots’ for antibiotic resistance genes and bacteria but sewer overflows exacerbate the problem by disseminating them into rivers. Researchers at Eawag suggest ways to minimise these effects.

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February 8, 2022

February 8, 2022Mining can have serious consequences for nature and the health of the population in countries of the Global South, where environmental laws are often only inconsistently implemented. In Hwange, in western Zimbabwe, people have been fighting water pollution from coal mining for years. But they were powerless against the operators – until doctoral student Désirée Ruppen launched a citizen science project in 2018.

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February 4, 2022

February 4, 2022Those who have just undergone surgery in the hospital, with their weakened immune systems, are easy prey for pathogens that lurk on a wide variety of surfaces. Even careful disinfection can only partially prevent these hospital-acquired infections. One hope in the fight against the pathogenic bacteria are bacteriophages. Eawag researchers were able to show that they improve the removal of pathogens from surfaces, especially in combination with chemical disinfection.

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February 1, 2022

February 1, 2022Scientists from 48 countries initiated the “European Reference Genome Atlas” at the start of 2021. Within this project, around 600 researchers aim to decode the genetic repertoire of all species of the continent by generating reference genomes for the roughly 200,000 eukaryotic species. The hope is to strengthen the foundations for conservation of biodiversity.

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January 28, 2022

January 28, 2022A river with chemically polluted sediments at its bottom is missing a crucial habitat. However, until now there has been no uniform method for monitoring the quality of sediments. On behalf of the Federal Office for the Environment, experts from the Ecotox Centre and Eawag have now developed a proposal for this.

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January 20, 2022

January 20, 2022Switzerland has around 800 municipal wastewater treatment plants. A recent study by Eawag researchers reveals the burden these plants place on the climate, and explores how emissions of climate-damaging nitrous oxide can be reduced.

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December 8, 2021

December 8, 2021It makes sense to study land and water habitats together, according to the initial findings of the Blue-Green Biodiversity initiative.

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November 19, 2021

November 19, 2021Rising temperatures, invasive species and other factors have changed the composition of species in Lake Constance over the last century. Researchers are trying to understand how this could have happened and what it means for the lake.

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November 18, 2021

November 18, 2021A flood causes stress for organisms living in a watercourse. Their survival depends on factors such as whether there are refuge habitats to which they can retreat. Researchers at VAW and Eawag studied how river widening as part of restoration measures improves potential refugia availability. They showed that refugia provision and thereby the protection of biodiversity depends crucially on the supply of bedload.

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November 17, 2021

November 17, 2021The separation toilet save! has won the Design Award Switzerland 2021. This is also a milestone for Tove Larsen. She is a member of the Eawag Directorate and has been researching for almost 30 years how the nutrients in wastewater can be recovered in a useful way. In this interview on the occasion of World Toilet Day 2021, she explains how crucial our handling of wastewater is for climate change and for achieving the SDGs sustainability goals.

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November 17, 2021

November 17, 2021Together with a team of researchers and designers, Kai Udert has designed a toilet system that makes it possible to recycle nutrients from wastewater on-site. As a result, valuable nutrients can be recovered and used as fertilisers so that they no longer end up in lakes and oceans where they do a lot of damage. Now he wants to make the system ready for market together with industry partners.

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November 2, 2021

November 2, 2021Our lakes, rivers and streams are teeming with the smallest creatures, plants and bacteria that are barely visible to the naked eye, if at all. An underwater camera makes it possible to observe and identify the species of these creatures in real time.

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October 29, 2021

October 29, 2021Whether a hydroelectric power plant is built, a pesticide is banned or a moor is placed under protection – a wide variety of political decisions have an impact on biodiversity. But does biodiversity play any role at all in such decisions? Researchers at Eawag and WSL have investigated this question and examined Swiss policy over the past 20 years.

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October 26, 2021

October 26, 2021Microplastics, owing to their chemical properties, can carry micropollutants into a fish’s digestive system where they are subsequently released through the action of its gastric and intestinal fluids. Scientists of EPFL and Eawag, working in association with other research institutes, have studied this process by looking specifically at progesterone – often pointed to as an endocrine disrupter.

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October 14, 2021

October 14, 2021Heatwaves and heavy local rainfall will increase with climate change, pushing traditional urban drainage systems to their limits. These problems can be addressed using the blue-green infrastructure approach. With careful planning, solutions of this kind can also increase biodiversity and improve the quality of urban life.

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October 12, 2021

October 12, 2021Europe has relatively low biodiversity compared to most other continents because many species became extinct during the ice ages. In subterranean ecosystems, however, which were shielded from climatic turbulences, a great diversity of ancient species were able to survive. This is the conclusion of a study on the amphipod genus Niphargus.

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October 5, 2021

October 5, 2021Evolution plays a crucial role in ecosystem tipping points, as shown in two recently published studies by Eawag researchers. If this influence is taken into account, ecosystem collapses can be better predicted in the future. At the same time, the studies reveal how the risk of ecosystem collapse can be reduced and the chances of recovery increased.

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September 30, 2021

September 30, 2021Although the consequences of climate change are becoming more and more visible and tangible, the transition to climate-friendly energy systems is only proceeding slowly. In a field experiment, Eawag and the University of Groningen (NL) investigated what kind of measures could be used to better promote innovations such as heat pumps.

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September 23, 2021

September 23, 2021The "gene scissors" CRISPR/Cas9 can be used to precisely modify genes in order to study their function in an organism. A researcher at Eawag has now succeeded for the first time in establishing the gene scissors for a fish cell line of rainbow trout. This means that, as of now, genetically modified cell lines can be produced. These allow alternatives to ecotoxicological tests on living animals.

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September 15, 2021

September 15, 2021Making decisions about what sanitation infrastructure to implement in emergency and humanitarian crises is challenging. Research on how to support this decision-making has led to the online platform: emersan-compendium.org.

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September 9, 2021

September 9, 2021An Eawag study has shown that it makes good sense to recover domestic energy, for example from warm shower water. The study refutes concerns that this form of heat utilisation could have a negative impact on waste water treatment plants. In fact, utilising the energy closer to its source reduces energy losses in the waste-water system.

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August 17, 2021

August 17, 2021Toxic substances in the environment can harm the nervous system of fish embryos. Now, researchers at Eawag have developed a computer model that helps to better understand how the damage occurs.

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August 5, 2021

August 5, 2021Blue-green algae and other phytoplankton are very important for the proper functioning of aquatic ecosystems. When they accumulate in high quantities, however, they can be harmful to people and animals because some blue-green algae species produce toxic chemicals. For this reason, the aquatic research institute Eawag is currently working on methods to improve the prediction of bloom events.

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July 8, 2021

July 8, 2021Eawag’s practice-oriented courses (known as PEAK) provide training for professionals. Isabelle Schläppi of the PEAK Office looks back over a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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June 29, 2021

June 29, 2021Groundwater is also an ecosystem, but little is known about the biodiversity underground. Eawag researchers have now documented the diversity of life in Swiss groundwater in a pilot study – and discovered previously unknown species of amphipods in the process. Here they relied on a citizen science approach.

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June 24, 2021

June 24, 2021The OECD gives the green light to the fish cell line assay developed at Eawag. This paves the way for companies and authorities around the world to determine the environmental toxicology of chemicals without having to resort to animal testing.

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June 18, 2021

June 18, 2021Bacteria from an Indian landfill could help eliminate contaminated chemicals. The focus is on pesticides such as lindane or brominated flame retardants, which accumulate in nature and in food chains. Researchers at Eawag and Empa used these bacteria to generate enzymes that can break down these dangerous chemicals.

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June 17, 2021

June 17, 2021Formerly widespread, native crayfish in Switzerland are now highly endangered. With support from Eawag, experts are doing everything they can to preserve the secretive river dwellers.

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June 9, 2021

June 9, 2021With the latest analytical methods, potentially toxic substances can be detected even at very low concentrations. However, the aim of research is not merely to document such contamination but also to understand how it occurs in streams and groundwater, and to propose mitigation measures.

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June 2, 2021

June 2, 2021Microbes self-organise to grow into fascinating and complex patterns. The diversity of these patterns depends on a previously unknown factor, as researchers at Eawag have discovered. This might re-define how we view the concept of microbial biodiversity.

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June 1, 2021

June 1, 2021The Zambezi River Basin in southern Africa is a high-quality waterscape. But current rapid development threatens the waters of the Zambezi, particularly its tributaries. The challenge will be to ensure that mitigation measures keep up with population and economic growth to avoid degradation of water quality degradation.

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May 26, 2021

May 26, 2021The shift from fossil to renewable energy sources is essential for climate mitigation but will also significantly reduce the atmospheric input of the nutrients sulphur and selenium into soils. Sustainable solutions are therefore needed to supply intensively used agricultural soils with sufficient nutrients and to ensure a safe and healthy diet for the world's population.  

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May 21, 2021

May 21, 2021An Eawag researcher has helped to develop a new approach to tracking how river water enters the groundwater. In the test area within the Emmental, the flow time within the aquifer has been shown to be much shorter than previously assumed. This has potential consequences during dry spells.

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April 29, 2021

April 29, 2021Their very small size means that rotaviruses are difficult to filter out of water. But these pathogens are among the leading causes of gastrointestinal infections, especially among children in developing countries. Now, a team of researchers from Empa and Eawag has demonstrated an approach that could make rotaviruses easier to remove in the future.

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March 30, 2021

March 30, 2021Ecotoxicological tests need to be extremely accurate – which often poses challenges in research and practice. Eawag has now developed a computer model that enables even more accurate testing at high throughput; the model is simple, widely applicable and saves resources.

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March 11, 2021

March 11, 2021Rare earth metals such as cerium and gadolinium are increasingly entering wastewater from industry, but also from hospitals. This is shown by Eawag’s investigations at 63 wastewater treatment plants in Switzerland.

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March 9, 2021

March 9, 2021Monitoring of wastewater samples has the potential to provide a further indicator – alongside the number of cases, hospitalisations and deaths – to track the course of the pandemic. With support from the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), an existing research project is now being expanded from two to six wastewater treatment plants.

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March 3, 2021

March 3, 2021New pharmaceuticals are being launched on the market all the time. It is of course their effectiveness in people’s health that is of central importance here, but at some point, their active ingredients or traces of them wind up in the environment, where they can have negative consequences. A large-scale EU project in which Eawag is also participating is now trying to help ensure that possible environmental impacts of pharmaceuticals are recognised by the pharmaceutical industry and the relevant approval bodies in the early stages of a drug’s development.

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February 23, 2021

February 23, 2021A new fact sheet highlights the opportunities and challenges associated with greywater.

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February 9, 2021

February 9, 2021Beavers are master builders that reshape aquatic landscapes with their dams and lodges. The environments they inhabit experience an increase in the biodiversity of aquatic organisms, for example. Now, for the first time, an Eawag study from the wine-growing region known as “Zürcher Weinland” has shown that this is also true for streams in areas given over largely to agriculture. The rodents could therefore be interesting partners when it comes to enhancing bodies of water.

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February 4, 2021

February 4, 2021Surfaces which are frequently touched by many different people may be contaminated with the coronavirus, but the risk of infection via this route is low. However, regular collection of samples from door handles, buttons or keypads could be useful for monitoring the course of the pandemic.

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January 29, 2021

January 29, 2021For three months, an extended family in South Africa tested the standalone Autarky toilet cubicle. Everyone was very happy with the quiet hideout.

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January 21, 2021

January 21, 2021Legionella in drinking water systems can pose a health risk. But the complexity of the stagnation issue means that a much more nuanced approach is required to manage this risk than has previously been supposed.

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January 6, 2021

January 6, 2021Each year, around 130 kilograms of mercury flow into Swiss wastewater treatment plants, which filter out the lion’s share from the waste water. This is shown by a survey of almost thirty wastewater treatment plants conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag) and the Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN).

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