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The WRc Group is a privately-owned group of companies providing research and consultancy on water supply, waste treatment and the public.



The organisation began in 1927 as the Water Pollution Research Laboratory (WPL), based in Luton, part of the Civil Service, with a remit of providing research and advice on sewage treatment. During the Second World War the WPL also worked in other areas, of which the best-remembered was the creation of a device for airmen to make sea water acceptable as drinking water.

In the 1950s the WPL moved to Stevenage, and here it is associated with the first systematic analyses of sewage treatment. In 1974, following the reorganisation of the UK water supply industry, the WPL was converted to a quango, controlled by the publicly-owned Regional Water Authorities. It was also amalgamated with the Water Research Association (WRA) and the Water Resources Board. The WRA had been founded in 1953 and provided research and advice on drinking water treatment to the municipal bodies responsible for drinking water supply. The WRA was based at Medmenham. The new organisation was renamed the Water Research Centre.

In 1989 the Water Research Centre was privatised and renamed WRc PLC, as part of the privatisation of the UK water industry. At that stage it shut down its Stevenage site. In 2004 the Medmenham site was also shut down, leaving Swindon as WRc's main site. Today the WRc Group employs 200 people. Its shares are mainly owned by its staff.


Notable amongst WRc output are the following:


  • First analysis that activated sludge nitrification could be mathematically modelled


  • Development of first accurate general activated sludge model
  • Development of the standard approach to minimising the effects of bulking sludge on activated sludge
  • Only public body of extensive research of trickling filters
  • Development of the SSVI technique for analysing activated sludge settleability
  • Development of the first mass-flux based analysis of activated sludge settler design
  • Development of two standard assessment techniques for sludge thickening and dewatering, the CST (capillary suction time) and PFT (pressure filtration test)


  • Water-industry standard techniques for assessing sludge rheology, and a general correlation for rheological properties used in the absence of experimental data
  • Development of techniques for water mains and sewer rehabilitation, without requiring extensive digging and replacing of pipes
  • Co-development with the UK water industry of the Urban Pollution Management procedure, the first formal procedure for analysing water pollution at the catchment level, and which was one of the drivers for the subsequent EU legislation behind the Water Framework Directive
  • Comprehensive capital cost models (TR 61) used widely by the water companies, and recognised by OFWAT as a comparator for company-specific costs


Today WRc works both with the public and private sectors in the UK and internationally. Its clients are:

  • The UK regulators and government agencies, eg the Environment Agency, Water Services Regulation Authority (OFWAT) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
  • British and international water utilities
  • The European Commission
  • Development agencies such as the World Bank and the Department for International Development (DfID)
  • Local government
  • UK Water Industry Research (UKWIR)
  • Private sector companies

Following privatisation WRc has been less active in leading research. However the initiative in this field has passed to the Foundation for Water Research in the 1990s, and the UK Water Industry Research in the 2000s. WRc carried out research for the FWR during its 1990s period, and continues to do research projects with UKWIR.

See also

Plastic pressure pipe systems

  • Foundation for Water Research
  • UK Water Industry Research
  • UK Water Industry Research Bookshop
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "WRc". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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