Open Requests

WERF funds water research on behalf of its subscribers, and facilitates collaboration among organizations seeking funding partners for high-priority issues. WERF awards a contract through a competitive process and coordinates an independent technical review project through a staff-assigned project manager. All qualified entities – including international organizations and disadvantaged business enterprises – are encouraged to submit research proposals. 

Announcement of New NSF-WERF Collaborative Funding Opportunity: Intensification and
Resource Recovery 

The Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) will collaborate to support research and technology development and demonstration for intensification and resource recovery (IR²) at wastewater facilities. WERF and NSF anticipate funding up to $3 million over the next four years of this research effort, with the first year being a pilot program.  

There is a growing knowledge and awareness of wastewater as a resource which contains valuable products that can be recovered and returned to the economy. There is also a growing need for facilities to intensify processes to accomplish treatment and resource recovery with less cost, space, etc. The research to be funded by the WERF-NSF collaboration agreement will focus on enhancing recovery of energy, water, nutrients, chemicals, heat and other marketable resources from wastewater; reducing treatment facility capital, operating, and maintenance (O&M) costs for resource recovery; reducing the footprint and carbon emissions of treatment processes; and, improving the resiliency of water systems. The products produced will help support local economic and industrial activity near water resource recovery facilities due to source proximity of clean water, organic wastes, energy, biofuels, heat, etc.  

In August 2015, WERF and the Water Environment Federation, with support from the NSF, hosted a Forum on IR² which included discussion of key research and technology needs. Information about the Forum is available here. Research and technology needs identified at Forum are in the Working Session Notes. One of the goals of this WERF-NSF collaboration is to strengthen the connections between academics, water resource recovery facilities, and other stakeholders to help solve water industry issues related to IR². 

Both NSF and WERF will review proposals and coordinate the resulting awards and funding of top proposals addressing gaps for IR². The selected projects will advance research and technology development and demonstration for IR² at water resource recovery facilities. The research proposals will be associated with the unsolicited call of NSF's Environmental Engineering Program 14-440.

Research Areas
The key research questions and proposals that the WERF-NSF collaboration would potentially support will focus on IR² from wastewater. The goal will be to improve basic science and accelerate the development, demonstration, and implementation of innovative technologies to enhance recovery of water, nutrients, energy, heat and other valuable products at water resource recovery facilities and to reduce costs. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:
  • Nutrient Removal and Recovery: Including processes for intensified mainstream biological nutrient removal, macro and micro nutrient recovery (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium), etc.
  • Energy from Wastewater: Including processes for wastewater carbon diversion and enhanced energy recovery, digestion enhancement, conversion of sludge or biosolids to energy, and novel means of recovering various forms of energy contained in wastewater (e.g., chemical, thermal, kinetic).
  • Water for Reuse:  Including processes for cost-effective advanced water treatment for production of water for potable or non-potable use, removal of compounds of emerging concern, etc.
  • High Rate Treatment: Including processes for higher throughputs and cake solids in dewatering, improving dewaterability, high rate wet weather treatment, high intensity filtration, etc.
  • Other products:  Including processes for capturing or producing other valuable products from wastewater such as chemicals, bioplastics, etc.
Submission and Deadline
Principal investigators wishing to be considered for funding in the area of IR² should send a copy of their NSF proposals (using NSF Guidelines) to Amit Pramanik at during the open solicitation period for NSF Program 1440: October 1, 2015 to October 20, 2015.