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The UNESCO-IHE laboratory is an internal service unit that supports the Institute’s educational, research and capacity building activities, with a focus on education and research.


The educational support includes practical demonstrations during lectures or fieldwork, as well as in-house laboratory courses in microbiology, chemistry, ecology, and process technology. The research support consists of guidance and analytical assistance for PhD and MSc students and for externally financed consultancy projects.

The facilities include modern teaching laboratories and a well equipped research laboratory to support courses and research in a wide range of environmental and water-related fields. The educational and research laboratories (area 750 m2) include a range of pilot plants and laboratory-scale experimental facilities for water treatment techniques such as sand filtration, membrane filtration, ozonation, coagulation and flotation, and aerobic and anaerobic purification processes. Experiments that require simulated (semi-)tropical conditions, such as tests with tropical wetland plants, can be developed under realistic (tropical) conditions in the Institute’s greenhouse facilities.

Research activities on water treatment processes

Groundwater – treatment for drinking water production:

  • Technologies for removing Fe, Mn, As, F, B and coliform bacteria.

Surface water – analysis and treatment for water management purposes and drinking water production:

  • Removal of algae and clay (particles) by coagulation/flotation;
  • Membrane filtration, scaling/fouling and cleaning (regeneration);
  • Water quality management, study of eutrophication processes;
  • Heavy metals uptake and appearance in soils, sediments and biota;
  • Organic pollutants such as pesticides, treatment by ozone, activated carbon and reverse osmosis.

Wastewater – treatment of industrial and domestic wastewater:

  • Nitrification/denitrification processes at high salinity levels;
  • Heavy metals and nutrient removal by wetlands (papyrus plants and duckweed);
  • Duckweed application for nutrient removal (the N and S cycles), production of gases such as NH3, H2S, N2O, CH4, CO2 ;
  • PO4 removal in anaerobic/aerobic sludge processes;
  • Removal of pathogens.

The laboratory staff can perform a wide range of tests for physical, chemical and (micro-) biological analyses of water, soil and air. Analytical techniques such as atomic absorption spectroscopy (AAS), induced coupled plasma (ICP), atomic fluorescence emission, UV-VIS spectrometry, ion chromatography and gas-liquid chromatography (GLC) are used for the analysis of many environmental inorganic and organic compounds, including nutrients, heavy metals and pesticides.

Leasing of laboratory facilities, advisory and analytical services

UNESCO-IHE offers laboratory space and facilities, pilot plants, advisory services and analytical services for lease to external parties, such as consultants, private companies, educational institutes (schools) and individuals. The laboratory also offers analytical services focusing on water quality parameters such as:

pH, conductivity, turbidity, dissolved oxygen

Ca, Mg, Na, K, HCO3, F, Cl, NH4, NO2, NO3, PO4, SO4, SiO2

and wastewater quality parameters such as:

COD, BOD, TOC, DOC, Kjeldahl-N, Total N, TDS, SVI

As, Cu, Pb, Zn, Cd,Co, Cr, Fe, Mn, Ni

Target groups

Educational institutes UNESCO-IHE offers laboratory space where teachers (with the assistance of laboratory staff if necessary) can give practical classes to students at all levels. Groups up to 50 students can be accommodated. Modern educational and presentation equipment and facilities will be provided. UNESCO-IHE laboratory personnel can give demonstrations and training to students who are familiar with instrumental analytical methods.

Consultants and other private companies Consultants working in the water sector can make use of UNESCO-IHE’s in-house experimental equipment, including coagulation/ flotation jar tests, vertical filtration columns, sequencing batch fermentors and an ozonization set-up. In some cases, arrangements can be made for such equipment to be used at other locations. Although UNESCO-IHE laboratory staff can conduct measurements of, monitor and analyse a wide range of water quality parameters, the sophisticated analytical instruments are not available for rent.