Groundwater

Groundwater is an important indigenous resource. It is a central element of the natural water cycle and feeds valuable habitats. An integral groundwater conservation is indispensable for conservation of groundwater resources.

Groundwater monitoring
Groundwater monitoring, canton Uri

Summary

Over 80 percent of Switzerland’s drinking water is obtained from groundwater. Groundwater flows in subsurface cavities and occurs naturally at the surface as springs. It is artificially extracted from the ground with pump wells. 

Groundwater is part of the natural water cycle and feeds valuable habitats like spring biotopes, moors and wetlands. Groundwater is formed by the seepage of precipitation or surface water e.g., from streams and rivers.

Groundwater is naturally protected by the overlying strata. The soil plays an important role in the quality of the newly formed groundwater. A healthy, deep and biologically active soil can filter out particles and pathogens present in the water as well as partially retain and decompose dissolved pollutants.

Groundwater is at risk from pollutants like pesticides, fertilizers and other micro-pollutants from

  • agriculture
  • industry and contaminated sites
  • settlements and transport
  • defective sewers and sewage treatment plants
     

Material decomposition, construction operations and overuse can also negatively affect groundwater. 

So that the groundwater resources and the groundwater-dependent habitats (biotopes, springs, wetlands) remain preserved, an integral groundwater conservation (both qualitative and quantitative) is warranted. The federal government establishes the legal framework for water conservation. The cantons are responsible for the implementation.

In order to assess the status and development of groundwater resources as well as the impact of human activity, constant monitoring is necessary. The National Groundwater Monitoring programme NAQUA has for that approximately 600 monitoring points.

Groundwater and all other influencing factors comprise the research field of hydrogeology.

Who is who

The federal government, cantons and engineering bureaus deal with the procurement and conservation of groundwater. Groundwater research is conducted at Swiss universities. Hydrogeologists from industry, administration and research organizations are united through the Swiss Society of Hydrogeology.

The federal government establishes the legal framework for water conservation. The cantons are responsible for implementation thereof. The Federal Office for the Environment is the responsible body for the hydrogeological tasks of the Swiss Geological Survey.

Hydrogeological research and teaching takes place at the Swiss universities and research institutes. A collection of links for these organizations has been compiled by the Federal Office for the Environment.

The Swiss Society for Hydrogeology is the professional organization of representatives from science, industry and the authorities that work in the field of hydrogeology.

Data

Groundwater: data

The Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN), the Federal Office of Topography swisstopo (geological survey) as well as geodata portals of the cantons and the federal government provides access to groundwater data and hydrogeological maps. Geocat.ch provides an ideal starting point for searching for such data. Reports and explanations on hydrogeological topics are available from FOEN. 

Viewer, maps

Reports, commentaries


Water

Contact

Section Hydrogeology (FOEN)
E-Mail
Section Groundwater Protection (FOEN)
E-Mail


Groundwater Resources 1:500000

Hydrogeological Map of Switzerland 1:100000

Nitrates in groundwater (NAQUA)