Water research

Research ensures responsible use of Finland's water resources in the future.

Water research and its development are essential for a country such as Finland with extensive and rich water resources. Most of Finland’s freshwater resources are located in Eastern Finland, which makes the responsible utilisation of the area’s water resources important also in the future. In addition, water research also aims to solve the challenges created by climate change, such as the impact it has on the circulation of the world’s waters.

Saastamoinen Foundation, together with Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation and Olvi Foundation, supports the University of Eastern Finland’s research programme exploring aquatic environments as an accelerator of research, wealth and well-being in Eastern Finland. The programme has been granted a funding of EUR 2.6 million for 2019-2021.

The aim of the programme is to bring together knowhow from the University of Eastern Finland’s Kuopio and Joensuu campuses and to find new perspectives relating to water research by strengthening the multidisciplinary aspect of the research. The research aims to ensure that there will be clean drinking water, healthy aquatic environments and sustainable water resources also in the future, both in Finland and globally.

“Our new research programme is ambitious yet realistic, and it allows us to increase both the quality as well as regional and international significance of the water research conducted at the University of Eastern Finland,” says the programme’s director, professor Jussi Kukkonen. “Collaboration between different fields of study and sciences at our university will be a significant factor. Cooperation with other actors in the Kuopio and Joensuu regions, such as schools, research institutes and companies, is important in order to develop consortiums that are extensive enough.”

In addition, the project aims to grow into the most distinguished water-related research organisation in Finland within the next ten years, as well as to promote open multidisciplinary collaboration by bringing together key stakeholders and partners.  The University of Eastern Finland’s partners include, among others, the Savonia and Karelia universities of applied sciences, Natural Resources Institute Finland, Geological Survey of Finland, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare as well as the Finnish Food Authority. The programme currently employs 17 professors and 83 researchers with expertise in water treatment technologies, freshwater ecology and water law and policies, for example.

Collaboration yields important research results

Water research has an important role in combating climate change and preserving biodiversity. A practical example of the significance of collaboration in water research is the research article published by the University of Eastern Finland, Finnish Environment Institute and Natural Resources Institute Finland on the significance of winter in the nitrous oxide emissions of boreal lakes. Nitrous oxide emissions are more potent than carbon dioxide and methane, and the research examined their impact on the qualities of lakes and their catchment areas.

The joint project examined the nitrous oxide levels of 112 Finnish lakes representing different lake types during four seasons. Most of the nitrous oxide levels were attributable to nitrate levels, which were at their highest in the farming lands of Southern Finland. The eutrophication of lakes increases the waters’ nitrate levels, which in turn increases the amount of nitrous oxide and the emissions released into the atmosphere. The warming climate and especially the ice-free winters have an impact on the lakes’ elevated nutrient-levels, which increases the lakes’ greenhouse gas emissions.

Similar research projects utilising new research practices and subjects play a key role in the water research programme. With the help of international collaboration, water research gains new knowhow and skills that extend the benefits of the research and its results beyond Finland’s borders.

Photo: Kimmo Syväri