advancing the science of water ®

    Topics of Focus

  • Biosolids

    In the United States alone, billions of gallons of water are treated each day at wastewater treatment facilities. Once the water is clean, a different challenge remains: determining what to do with the solids that are removed during the treatment process. The resulting mixture is often a unique semi-solid blend of organic and inorganic materials, trace elements, chemicals, and even pathogens, so there is no across the board solution for handling and processing the combinations of constituents that may be present.

    Because these solids are often rich in nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus—which also happen to be the perfect ingredients for promoting healthy soil and plant growth—many facilities have turned to land application. Before these solids can be put to use for things like fertilizing farmland, however, they must undergo rigorous treatment to meet stringent regulations, at which point they become known as biosolids.  

    63 Projects 3 Web Tools 1 Webcast
    Project #4867
    Aquatic plants in a laboratory

    Developing Exposure and Toxicity Data for Priority Trace Organics in Biosolids

    In Progress

    Project Highlights

    Trace organic compounds (TOrCs) in land-applied biosolids are of concern to the public, the water quality industry, and the regulatory community. The number of scientific studies examining the issue continues to grow, but significant knowledge gaps remain that hinder the...
    Principal Investigator
    Research Manager
    Ms. Lola Olabode
  • Climate Change

    Climate change is already altering the patterns of our natural hydrologic cycle, creating uncertainty when it comes to the quality and quantity of water sources—forcing utilities to rethink practices that have traditionally been effective and seek solutions for more unpredictable conditions. While it is clear that widespread shifts in weather patterns will continue in the foreseeable future, the rate and intensity are not fully known. Even seemingly slight temperature increases can set off a chain of negative effects, such as lower dissolved oxygen levels, higher contaminant loads, reduced stream flows, altered runoff timing, widespread algal blooms, and increased saltwater intrusion. 

    Adding to this challenge is the increased frequency of extreme weather, also linked to climate change. From drought to storms to tidal surges, these events can have devastating effects on critical water infrastructure. Because lack of access to clean, safe water is the single biggest threat to human health and economic livelihood, water service providers must be prepared to address these unstable weather conditions. 

    29 Projects 1 Web Tool 2 Case Studies 11 Webcasts
    Project #4381

    Effective Climate Change Communication for Water Utilities


    Project Highlights

    This project produced a guidance document to assist water utilities in communicating about climate change, with an emphasis on building support for water utility climate-related adaptation or mitigation investments or projects. A message mapping worksheet is included within the report...
    Principal Investigator
    Research Manager
    Linda J Reekie
  • Cyanobacteria & Cyanotoxins

    Aquatic microscopic algae and cyanobacteria (blue-green algae) occur naturally in most surface waters, however certain nutrient and temperature conditions can lead them to rapidly multiply, leading to “blooms.” Under certain conditions, some species of cyanobacteria can produce toxic secondary metabolites or cyanotoxins, which may pose health risks to humans and animals. Even when algae is not toxic, it can produce unpleasant tastes and odors.

    Cyanobacteria continue to be one of the most problematic organisms in our fresh water systems—with nearly a third of the United States reporting blooms. Without clear guidance or consensus regulations in place, many utilities struggle with responding to events. Since 1994, WRF has completed more than 30 research projects on these microscopic organisms and the cyanotoxins they produce, helping facilities detect, monitor, and manage these nuisance organisms—as well as communicate with the public.

    23 Projects 8 Webcasts
    Project #4697

    Four Steps to Effective Cyanotoxin Communications: A Risk Communications Toolkit


    Project Highlights

    This project provides materials, templates, and tools for utilities, regulatory agencies, and water professionals to better communicate about the risks associated with cyanotoxins in drinking water supplies. The research team leveraged interviews with utilities and a digital engagement platform with...
    Principal Investigator
    Research Manager
    Ms. Alice E Fulmer
  • Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs)

    The use of strong oxidants to disinfect water has virtually eliminated waterborne diseases like typhoid, cholera, and dysentery in developed countries. However, research has shown that chlorine interacts with natural organic matter present in water supplies to form regulated and non-regulated disinfection byproducts (DBPs).

    To minimize the formation of regulated DBPs and comply with existing regulations, water utilities have increasingly been moving away from chlorine to use alternative disinfectants like chloramine, or installing more advanced and costly treatment processes, such as ozone or granular activated carbon to remove DBP precursors. However, while reducing the formation of halogenated DBPs, alternative oxidants have been shown to favor the formation of other DBPs (e.g., ozone producing bromate and halonitromethanes, and chloramines producing N-nitrosodimethylamine and iodinated DBPs). 

    104 Projects 2 Web Tools 1 Case Study 10 Webcasts
  • Energy Optimization

    For most water facilities, energy is one of the highest costs in their operating budget. Stricter regulations are pushing facilities to use even more advanced—and energy-intensive—treatment technologies. Optimizing energy use can provide huge cost savings and numerous additional benefits, including improving air quality, protecting the environment, and bolstering energy security. WRF has published more than 100 projects that explore ways to not only optimize current energy use, but to generate power as well—setting the course for a self-sufficient water sector.

    68 Projects 10 Web Tools 4 Case Studies 11 Webcasts
    Project #4788

    State of the Science and Issues Related to Heat Recovery from Wastewater

    In Progress

    Project Highlights

    This research explores the feasibility of recovering thermal energy from sewage, and what the state of current technology is for doing so, It is the first step identifying prospects and practical applications of sewage thermal energy use (STEU) by water...
    Principal Investigator
    Research Manager
    Mr. Ashwin Dhanasekar
  • Intelligent Water Systems

    As with other industries, newly developed technologies drive water utilities to adapt their day-to-day operations. Water networks have been a special focus, with new instrumentation options for water production, transmission, distribution, wastewater collection, and consumer end-points coming to market. Implementing these technologies can improve the efficiency and reliability of water networks, but with myriad options, utilities need guidance on which technologies are most worthwhile and how they should be implemented. 

    9 Projects 1 Web Tool
    Project #4836

    Leveraging Other Industries - Big Data Management (Phase I)

    In Progress

    Project Highlights

    This research project examines the current capabilities and state of knowledge of Internet of Things (IoT) and Big Data processing within the water industry and certain non-water sectors. The findings indicate that the water/wastewater industry has not embraced Big Data...
    Principal Investigator
    Research Manager
    Mr. Walter Graf
  • Microbes & Pathogens

    Control of microbes in water systems is critical to achieving water quality and public health goals. While most microbes are not considered human pathogens, certain microbes can pose health risks or contribute undesirable tastes and odors. 

    Since the early 20th century, modern drinking water treatment has made great advancements in the detection, removal, and inactivation of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa. As technologies in the drinking water space continue to progress, new challenges have arisen in the form of opportunistic premise plumbing pathogens. 

    Wastewater and stormwater utilities also play an essential role in reducing the pathogen load to receiving waters used for recreation.  Additionally, more recent advancements in water reuse, especially direct potable reuse, demand more understanding of pathogen detection, removal, and inactivation in wastewater. 

    266 Projects 4 Web Tools 13 Webcasts
    Project #4664

    Customer Messaging on Opportunistic Pathogens in Plumbing Systems


    Project Highlights

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges higher waterborne disease occurrence from premise plumbing (pipes, heaters, showerheads, and fixtures, etc. located within the property line) than from pathogens passing through the treatment plant into the drinking water...
    Principal Investigator
    Research Manager
    Dr. Hyunyoung Jang
  • Resource Recovery

    In recent decades, the wastewater sector has moved away from the idea of wastewater treatment plants as waste disposal facilities, instead envisioning these plants as water resource recovery facilities (WRRFs). WRRFs can produce clean water, recover nutrients (such as phosphorus and nitrogen), and potentially reduce fossil fuel consumption through the production and use of renewable energy.

    63 Projects 6 Web Tools 1 Webcast
    Project #1764

    State of Knowledge and Workshop Report: Intensification of Resource Recovery (IR2) Forum


    Project Highlights

    This report provides an independent literature review and state of knowledge of the technologies presented at the Intensification and Resource Recovery (IR2) Forum held August 9-11, 2015. It provides a summary of the discussions held in the working groups and...
    Principal Investigator
    Research Manager
    Lauren Fillmore M.S.

Innovation and Technology

The Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology (LIFT) is a multi-pronged initiative undertaken by The Water Research Foundation (WRF) and the Water Environment Federation to help bring new water technology to the field quickly and efficiently.

Technology Evaluations

Facility and industry end users share the cost of conducting demonstrations to accelerate adoption of new technologies.

People and Policy

Bench-marking how individual utilities accomplish the identification of resources and policies needed to implement effective research and development.


In-depth training, education, and outreach designed to promote innovation.

Informal Forum for R&D

Managers and individuals responsible for technology identification and deployment share experiences, activities, and interests.

Recent Updates


Throughout the year, WRF hosts and participates in events that focus on critical water quality issues. From web seminars to research workshops, these events provide opportunities for you to learn about new research from water quality experts and to share ideas and connect with other industry professionals.

Advances in Water Research

July - September 2019
vol. 29 no. 3
In this issue:

This issue features articles on managing nutrient pollution, cyanotoxins, hydrothermal processing, and more!

Join our mailing list and receive news and updates in your inbox!