Making Breakthrough Contributions
Sponsoring pioneering research to ensure
a healthy and plentiful water supply is
the ultimate goal of the Water Research
Foundation. We’ve made breakthrough
contributions in how utilities do business,
deliver safe drinking water, and ensure an
In carrying out their mission to store,
treat, or distribute quality drinking water,
utilities must sustain themselves first as
businesses. That is why the Foundation
devotes extensive funding to security, asset
management, and workforce planning.
Prior to 9/11, most utilities lacked expertise
to evaluate threats and implement security
measures. Recognizing this, we sponsored
related research some 18 months prior to
Armed with new information, we were able
to host a “Security Risk Assessment for
Water Utilities” teleconference viewed by an
estimated 20,000 water supply professionals
just weeks after the tragedy.
In this project, we partnered with Sandia
National Laboratories to create a tool to train
utilities how to assess the vulnerability of their
water systems. Nearly all U.S. utilities adopted
this tool to conduct self-assessments, saving
each an average of $200,000.
Today, the Foundation continues
our research on water infrastructure
decontamination, early warning systems,
and real-time monitoring. Our vulnerability
assessment and preparedness work
has expanded to evaluate management
response systems for natural disasters such
as earthquakes and tsunamis as well.
Leaks. Service interruptions and property
damage. Disease outbreaks. These are
just some effects caused by failures of the
100-year-old pipes that lie beneath our
nation’s cities. USEPA estimates necessary
rehabilitation and replacement costs to
be in excess of $330 billion. Unable or
hesitant to raise rates, utilities have put off
upgrading and replacing this infrastructure.
Since no community can afford the
necessary investment all at once, the
question became how to prioritize this
vital work. Foundation research developed
frameworks and tools to help utilities
evaluate, prepare, and replace their assets—
and determine when best to do it.
Additionally, we developed tools to
assess pipe condition and locale, as well
as material performance and lifespan.
This supplied water providers with a
strategic approach to intelligently replace
or refurbish existing assets without
depleting public funds. As a result,
they are saving millions in expenses,
while mending the very systems we rely
on for safe drinking water.
Many of the nation’s utilities face critical
staffing challenges due to an aging
workforce and the difficulty in attracting
and retaining qualified replacements. To
address this, the Foundation has evaluated
strategies to recruit, develop, and retain
operators and engineers.
Moreover, we helped utilities forge
alliances with universities to attract more
professionals to the industry. Additional
studies centered on providing effective
training and evaluating future workforce