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 10 specific research topics called Focus Areas. In 2015, the WRF Board of Trustees (BOT)approved two new Focus Areas that were identified through a comprehensive review of existing research and input from WRF stakeholders. The WRF BOT also retired three existing Focus Areas and set the 2015 Focus Area budget to $2.35M. The current list of 10 Focus Areas and the 12 approved projects for 2015 are listed below.

New Focus Area: Emerging Waterborne Pathogens in Distribution Systems and Premise Plumbing
Advance the science and understanding of emerging waterborne pathogens in distribution systems and potable water premise plumbing and develop improved monitoring and control strategies.
  • No project funded in 2015

New Focus Area: Defining Attributes and Demonstrating Benefits of Intelligent Distribution Systems
Define attributes, costs, and benefits of intelligent water distribution systems, and demonstrate existing technologies at one or more sites.

  • Project #4614: Focus Area Development Workshop -- Defining Attributes and Demonstrating Benefits of Intelligent Distribution Systems

Integrated Water Management: Planning for Future Water Supplies
By 2019, enhance water utility implementation of integrated water management and water supply diversification, by evaluating water supply diversification efforts through an integrated water management approach, by improving water supply planning to be more integrated, resilient, and reliable, and by evaluating how new water supplies from nontraditional sources, can be protective of public and environmental health.

  • Project #4615: Framework for Evaluating Alternative Water Supplies: Balancing Cost with Reliability, Resilience, and Sustainability.
  • Project #4623: Integrating Land Use and Water Resources Planning to Support Water Supply Diversification.
Contaminants of Emerging Concern and Risk Communication: Developing Core Messages and Engaging Critical Stakeholders
By 2016, develop core messages and strategies for water utilities to communicate about the relative risk of contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) with different audiences, and facilitate dialogue among key stakeholder groups to foster agreement on CEC issues and solutions.
  • Project #4616: Hospital Discharge Practices and Contaminants of Emerging Concern in Water
Water Utility Finances: Best Practices for Setting Rates, Financing Capital Improvements and Achieving Stakeholder Support
By 2017, develop utility communication resources, critically evaluate rate-setting strategies, tap financial best practices and efficiencies from outside the water industry, develop decision support tools for capital improvement financing, and enhance water affordability assistance programs.
  • Project #4617: New and Emerging Capital Providers for Infrastructure Funding
Water Utility Infrastructure: Applying Risk Management Principles and Innovative Technologies to Effectively Manage Deteriorating 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 #4618: Retrofit and Management of Metallic Pipe with Cathodic Protection: Guidance Document on Technical Feasibility and Economic Value
  • Project #4624: High Consequence Isolation Valve Placement and Operation for Effective Risk Management of Pipe Failure
Water Demand: Improving the Effectiveness of Forecasts and Management
By 2018, 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 #4619: Developing Water Use Metrics and Class Characterization for Categories in the CII Sector 

Developing Tools and Strategies for Improved Water Utility Energy Efficiency and Integrated
Water-Energy Planning

  • Project #4621: Performance Benchmarking of Pumps and Pumping Systems for Drinking Water Utilities
  • Project #4625: Barriers and Opportunities for Distributed Energy Resource Integration for Water and Wastewater Utilities and Energy Utilities
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 #4620: Practical Monitoring Tools for the Biological Processes in Biofiltration
NDMA and Other Nitrosamines: Precursor Control, Treatment Practices and Distribution System Operations to Achieve Regulatory Compliance
By 2019 provide resources to inform rule-makers and assist utility compliance with pending regulations by understanding the occurrence, precursor formation, treatment and control, and fate of nitrosamines in distribution systems.
  • Project #4622: Understanding the Source and Fate of Polymer-Derived Nitrosamine Precursors

Three Focus Areas retired by the WRF Board of Trustees and reasons for their retirement

Hexavalent Chromium: Filling Critical Knowledge Gaps to Inform Effective Rulemaking
The large body of WRF research associated with this topic has met the focus area goals and objectives.  Continued research would benefit a relatively small number of subscribers.
Holistic Strategies for Managing Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) in Water
While the issue is important, the scope of this focus area goes far beyond the water sector, and the current project, if successful, should go a long way toward meeting the objectives, to the extent they are achievable.
Carcinogenic VOCs Contaminant Group: Filling Critical Knowledge Gaps to Inform Meaningful Regulation
There are too many uncertainties, delays and unknowns in the USEPA regulatory approach to continue this focus area.
Volunteer opportunities for Focus Area projects
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 27, 2015.
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 March 6, 2015.  Interested volunteers should complete the online PAC volunteer application form.