Today, the construction and expansion of the urban water management infrastructure (drinking water supply and wastewater disposal) in Austria is largely completed. As a result, the operation and maintenance of the existing facilities are in the focus and addressed in this field of competence. The Institute's current research is primarily related to strategic concepts in water supply (performance assessment, condition-oriented rehabilitation planning, demand projections, water safety planning, disaster management) and in sewer management (demand-oriented cleaning, inspection and rehabilitation), aspects of digitalisation (data management and pipe information systems, hydrodynamic pipe network modelling, Building Information Modelling) as well as integral and cross-sectoral planning approaches, and it also includes aspects of climate change impacts in all areas. In addition, the institute focuses on lectures at trainings for water engineers of the Austrian Gas and Water Association (ÖVGW) as well as the training of operational staff of sewerage systems and small wastewater treatment plants within the framework of various courses of the Austrian Water and Waste Management Association (ÖWAV).
Water quality and monitoring
The Institute's expertise in describing and assessing water quality from a chemical, biological and microbiological perspective is pooled here. The basis of an integral consideration of urban water management issues is the assessment of the chemical and microbiological quality of natural waters, but also drinking water and wastewater. The combination of information from the sub-areas is a unique tool for providing scientifically sound answers related to water quality. In addition to the infrastructure and know-how for sampling and related to standardised procedures for assessing the quality of water, the focus is particularly on the further development of innovative methodological approaches. In chemical terms, analytical methods such as the targeted investigation of water-relevant trace substances or substance groups, but also the untargeted non-target analysis, accompanied by a toxicological evaluation for risk assessment, are worth mentioning. In microbiology, methods such as flow cytometry, microbiome determinations using DNA sequencing and MALDI-TOF-MS analyses are being developed and applied. Supporting the development of "real-time" quality monitoring in various water bodies is another research focus.
Water purification and wastewater treatment
In this field of competence, expertise and many years of experience are available in treatment of groundwater, drinking water, wastewater and rainwater as well as disinfection.
Special experience exists for
- adsorption processes with activated carbon, biochar, geogenic materials (e.g. vermiculites, zeolites) or selective adsorbers
- biological treatment processes (e.g.: removal of iron and manganese)
- disinfection processes such as chlorination, treatment with ClO2, UV-irradiation, membrane application, Ozone
- (advanced) oxidative processes (AOP) such as Fenton oxidation, oxidation with H2O2 also in combination with UV of different wavelengths, ozonation
- Membrane processes (membrane bioreactors, ultrafiltration, nanofiltration, RO)
- Natural systems such as bank filtration and constructed wetlands
- Compilation, analysis, interpretation and evaluation of extensive datasets from different information sources to derive overall concepts
In addition to conventional solutions, new methods such as "PEF - pulsed electric field" or cold plasma are also being researched.
We are interested in research projects in the area of optimization, development and assessment of processes, methods and devices. Our infrastructure including the laboratories (microbiology and chemistry) and our technical hall are available for this purpose. In addition, large-scale technical applications can be scientifically accompanied on site.
The transformation of viewing rainwater as a threatening aspect has undergone a radical paradigm shift, mainly due to climate change. Rapid collection and drainage of accumulating precipitation was the status quo until the year 2000. However, this approach reached its limits. Until a decade ago, therefore, the disconnection of rainwater in the discharging systems (combined sewers) was dominated by the hydraulic aspects and the cleaning performance of the sewage treatment plants. Today decentralized rainwater management includes collection, treatment if necessary and infiltration. This management type not only helps to conserve resources, but also improves life in urban areas. The availability of sufficient water for vegetation and the evapotranspiration capacity of the blue resource water helps especially during hot periods. The Institute has decades of experience in this field of research focusing on nature-based solutions and their effectiveness for runoff water. Furthermore, the expertise includes monitoring practise for specific cases and long-term investigations as well as data analysis and evaluation.
For decades, wastewater (sewage and stormwater) was considered as waste product that had to be collected, treated and disposed with a high energy use. In recent years, however, a paradigm shift can be observed, which is also supported by the increasing importance of a (local) circular economy principles. As a result, wastewater is seen less and less as waste and more as a resource. In this context, the field of competence "resource provision and recovery" deals with the major topics of wastewater as a source including water reuse and resource recovery, as well as wastewater as a renewable energy source. The Institute's research currently focuses on the reuse of rainwater and greywater, heat recovery from wastewater and sewage sludge management in rural areas.
Water resources management
This field of competence focuses on the expertise and many years of experience in the field of groundwater modelling, integrated water monitoring, and projections under the influence of climate change and socio-economic changes. Cross-competence research concerns in particular the catchment aspects of risk assessment, water safety planning, and disaster prevention. Methodologically, the work is often based on basics that are obtained from the consolidation, analysis and evaluation of extensive data from different information sources and serve to derive overall concepts. The precise definition of research questions and development of research concepts are always considered essential aspects. Furthermore, dealing with uncertainties in the input-data as well as the final evaluation of the modelling-results are considered to be an essential part of our work.