Our Story

Our story began more than 50 years ago in December 1966, with the investment of $34,000 from the American Water Works Association to form a nonprofit 501(c)(3) research foundation whose goal was to fund applied research important to water utilities. Today, we are the world’s leading One Water research and innovation organization operating on six continents. WRF represents approximately 1,200 subscribers, hosts an online research library of more than 2,300 completed projects valued at  $700 million, manages an innovation platform (LIFT Link) with a database of more than 140 innovative technologies, and supports the world’s largest body of stormwater best practice data.

Where We Are Today

Today’s foundation was created in 2018 through the integration of three highly respected research collaboratives: the WateReuse Research Foundation, the Water Environment Research Foundation, and the Water Research Foundation. Separately, these foundations focused on research to support varied segments of the water sector—water reuse, wastewater and stormwater, and drinking water. Through the wisdom of Board leadership from each of these research foundations, and as a result of an evolved understanding of the relationships and interdependencies of all waters and their resources, WERF and WateReuse Foundation integrated to form the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WE&RF) in 2016. The final merger, which represents our current foundation, The Water Research Foundation (WRF), is a result of WE&RF and the Water Research Foundation merging in January 2018 to encompass the One Water paradigm. 

WRF was built through strong partnerships with the leading water associations and water sector thought leaders. From the beginning, the American Water Works Association (AWWA), the Water Environment Federation (WEF), and the WateReuse Association have supported the foundation’s investment in sound science to help utilities make informed decisions. We regularly collaborate with close to 100 national and international organizations to accelerate successes in advancing innovative solutions in the water sector.

The story of The Water Research Foundation represents the evolution of water science—from siloed thinking to one that delivers the research and innovation needed to address the most pressing water issues holistically, while remaining true to our core mission to provide water sector leaders with the information needed to make informed decisions about the management of their water systems. We’ve come a long way—and we’re looking forward to addressing the new challenges on the horizon.

Our Successes

We are proud of our successes. These are some notable examples of how The Water Research Foundation has improved water practices:

Halifax Water Loss Control and Pressure Management

Halifax participated in and applied research findings Evaluating Water Loss and Planning Loss Reduction Strategies, in a water loss control program that saved the utility an estimated $600K annually in energy and chemicals.  Halifax subsequently applied results from WRF’s extensive body of research in advanced water pressure management, which resulted in a 50% reduction in water main breaks.

Demonstration of UV Effectiveness for Cryptosporidium

WRF research first demonstrated the effectiveness of medium- and low-pressure UV light for inactivating protozoan cysts, particularly chlorine-resistant Cryptosporidium. WRF research led to regulatory acceptance of UV for Cryptosporidium inactivation, and the eventual inclusion of UV in U.S. EPA’s Long Term 2 Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule.

Advancing Potable Reuse

WRF’s research portfolio, as well as research from leading investigators, was synthesized in 2016 and provided to the State of California’s expert panel on water reuse. WRF research is the cornerstone of information being used to help inform the development of California’s direct potable reuse regulations to support the safe and reliable expansion of water supplies in California and is supported through funding from the California State Water Board and other partners. 

Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology (LIFT)

WRF and WEF launched LIFT, the Leaders Innovation Forum for Technology, in 2012, to support water utilities as they consider innovation needs, technologies, processes and solutions. To date, there have been over 1,100 technologies identified, 140 technologies accelerated, 750 volunteers engaged, 90 test bed facilities identified worldwide, and over $6M raised to fund innovation and pilots.

Our Commitment

Our story began with visionary minds that understood the power of research to inform smart decisions and investments in our water systems. The story continues with sustained visionary leadership that can address our communities’ water issues in an integrated and holistic manner through the leadership of The Water Research Foundation and collaboration and partnership with many others. The foundation is committed to providing our subscribers with the tools and focused research necessary to navigate the ever-changing water sector landscape. Together with you, we embark on a future path of continued groundbreaking One Water research, paved with the knowledge acquired throughout the foundation’s rich history.

Want to Know More?

Learn more about our purpose, values, and our approach to improving public health and the environment.