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

 Focus Areas

Active Focus Areas

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Defining Attributes and Demonstrating Benefits of Intelligent Water Networks: By 2020, define attributes, costs and benefits of intelligent water distribution systems, and demonstrate existing technologies at one or more sites.

Waterborne Pathogens in Distribution and Plumbing Systems: Generate a knowledge base necessary to address the public health challenge posed by emerging waterborne pathogens in distribution systems and premise plumbing.

Cyanobacterial Blooms and Cyanotoxins: Monitoring, Control, and Communication Strategies:  Develop a tool box to help utilities prepare for cyanobacterial blooms, develop practical monitoring methodologies, cost-effective control strategies, and communication resources.

Non-Regulated Disinfection By-Products in Drinking, Recycled, and Desalinated Water: Occurrence, Toxicological Relevance, and Control Strategies: By 2021, examine the formation of non-regulated DBPs during water treatment processes; develop control strategies that minimize the formation of regulated DBPs while preventing the formation of non-regulated DBPs; identify sources of bromide, iodide, and dissolved organic nitrogen (DON), and develop removal strategies; and provide guidance to utilities to comply with regulations while minimizing unintended consequences.

Source Separated Organic Feedstock Pre-Treatment and Management Practices: By 2022, provide utilities with information and tools to make informed decisions about source separated organics (SSO) feedstock pre-treatment and management practices. SSOs are defined as food wastes originating from restaurants (excluding grease), commercial kitchens, and grocery stores, as well as residential food waste that is separated from other household wastes.

Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) Compliance:By 2022, provide resources to assist Lead and Copper Rule (LCR) compliance and inform current and pending LCR regulations by evaluating lead and copper corrosion control mechanisms, developing risk communication resources, exploring lead service line (LSL) issues, analyzing monitoring and sampling requirements, and understanding impacts to wastewater systems.


Completed Focus Areas

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.

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.

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‚Äźoccurrence of VOCs; evaluate treatment for removing VOCs and reliability of technologies; and develop cost information for VOC treatment.

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.

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.

NDMA and Other Nitrosamines:  Precursor Control, Treatment Practices and Distribution System Operations to Achieve Regulatory Compliance. By 2016, 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.