The Focus Area program enables the Water Research Foundation to address broadly relevant subscriber issues, challenges, and opportunities with a targeted, sustained research effort. 60 percent of our annual research budget is allocated to this program. Our Board of Trustees obligates program funds each January and individual projects are then approved and funded by our Board-appointed Focus Area Council (FAC).

The program is developed around specific research areas. The WRF Board of Trustees has approved 11 Focus Areas that were identified through a comprehensive review of existing research and input from WRF stakeholders. WRF staff then convened Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) to develop a multi-year research agenda for each Focus Area.
Water Research Foundation subscribers are encouraged to participate by volunteering to serve as a test facility, provide water samples, respond to surveys, loan equipment, or share staff expertise on particular research projects. Participating utilities gain firsthand information about the study and benefit from working with researchers and others in the water community. Interested organizations must complete the online UPIR volunteer application form by March 31, 2014.
Additionally, subject matter experts are urged to volunteer to serve on Project Advisory Committees (PAC) that will oversee each funded project. The application deadline to serve on a PAC for 2014 is February 21, 2014.  Interested volunteers should complete the online PAC volunteer application form.
Each year, TACs develop and recommend specific research projects that are then evaluated by the FAC. The following is the list of Focus Areas and the related 2014 projects approved by the ​FAC.
New Focus Area - Integrated Water Management: Planning for Future Water Supplies
Water utilities globally are faced with increasing water supply pressures due to factors such as population growth, increased hydrologic and climate variability and uncertainty, decreasing availability of high quality water sources, decreasing quality of existing sources, and increasing water demands from other sectors like energy and agriculture.   Water utilities need innovative tools and approaches to overcome the numerous financial, social, environmental, technical, regulatory, and institutional challenges to diversifying water supply portfolios.
     Project 4550: Focus Area Development Workshop – Integrated Water Management: Planning for Future Water Supplies
Contaminants of Emerging Concern and Risk Communication: Developing Core Messages and Engaging
Critical Stakeholders

By 2015, develop core messages for water utilities to communicate about the relative risk of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) with different audiences, and further the dialogue among key stakeholder groups to foster agreement on CEC issues and solutions.
      Project 4551: Terminology for Improved Communication Regarding CECs
Water Utility Finances: Best Practices for Setting Rates, Financing Capital Improvements and Achieving Stakeholder Support
By 2017, develop utility communication tools for stakeholders, critically evaluate rate-setting strategies, tap financial best practices and efficiencies from outside the water industry, and develop decision support tools for capital improvement financing.
      Project 4552: Identifying and Evaluating Fixed Fee Opportunities
      Project 4557: Customer Assistance Programs for Multi-family Residential and Other Hard to Reach Customers

Water Utility Infrastructure: Applying Risk Management Principles and Innovative Technologies to Effectively Manage Deteriorating Infrastructure
By 2017, provide utilities with tools and strategies to optimize the use of condition assessment and risk management in making infrastructure renewal decisions and the use of innovative renewal techniques.
      Project 4553: Guidance and Strategies for Determining When it is Cost Effective to Use Condition Assessment Technologies on High Consequence Water Mains
Water Demand: Improving the Effectiveness of Forecasts and Management
By 2016, increase the effectiveness of demand forecasting and management, by increasing our knowledge of water demand factors, providing guidance on preparing forecasts, understanding the uncertainty associated with them, and more effectively incorporating demand forecasts and their uncertainty into financial, infrastructure and water resource plans.
      Project 4495: Integrating High Efficiency Standards, Building Codes, and Technology into Demand Forecasting
      Project 4554: Water Use in the Multi-Family Housing Sector
      Project 4558: Uncertainty in Long Term Water Demand Forecasting
Biofiltration: Defining Benefits and Developing Utility Guidance
By 2016, determine biofiltration effectiveness at removing contaminants, define benefits and communicate to key stakeholders, and provide utility guidance on optimizing biofiltration.
      Project 4555: Optimizing Biofiltration for Various Source Water Quality
      Project 4559: Simultaneous Removal of Multiple Chemical Contaminants Using Biofiltration
NDMA and Other Nitrosamines: Precursor Control, Treatment Practices and Distribution System Operations to Achieve Regulatory Compliance
By 2016, provide resources to inform rulemakers and assist utility compliance with pending regulations by understanding the occurrence, precursor formation, treatment and control, and fate of nitrosamines in distribution systems.
      Project 4491, Phase II: Unintended Consequences of Implementing Nitrosamine Control Strategies – Case Studies and Cost of Implementation 
      Project 4560: GAC Control of Regulated and Emerging DBPs of Health Concern
Hexavalent Chromium: Filling Critical Knowledge Gaps to Inform Effective Rulemaking
By 2016, evaluate treatment technologies for Cr(VI) under different conditions, quantify compliance costs, and identify factors that can impact Cr(VI) concentrations in finished and distributed drinking water.
      Project 4556: Cost-Effective Cr(VI) Residuals Management Strategies
      Project 4561: Bench-Scale Evaluation of Alternative Cr(VI) Removal Options for Small Systems
      Project 4562: Scoping Study to Review Contributions of Chromium to Drinking Water from Corrosion in the Distribution System
Holistic Strategies for Managing Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) in Water
By 2015, evaluate and support the advancement of holistic control strategies for managing contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in water.
      No projects recommended for funding in 2014
Developing Tools and Strategies for Improved Water Utility Energy Efficiency and Integrated
Water-Energy Planning

By 2016, provide effective strategies to reduce water utility energy consumption and cost, develop strategies for multi-sector, regional, integrated water-energy planning, and provide sound approaches for energy generation by water utilities.
       No projects recommended for funding in 2014
Carcinogenic VOCs Contaminant Group: Filling Critical Knowledge Gaps to Inform Meaningful Regulation
By 2016, develop a comprehensive research agenda to assess effectiveness of analytical methods; address occurrence and co-occurrence of VOCs; evaluate treatment for removing VOCs and reliability of technologies; and develop cost information for VOC treatment.
      No projects recommended for funding in 2014