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The WRc Group is an independent public limited company providing research and consultancy in water, waste and the environment in the United Kingdom.


The organisation began in 1927 as the Water Pollution Research Laboratory (WPRL),[1] 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 WPRL 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 WPRL 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 WPRL 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 (WRC).

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 around 100 staff. Its shares are mainly owned by its staff and UK water companies.


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 with a range of customers in the public and private sectors around the world. Its clients include:

WRc is an innovative, research-based group, providing consultancy in the water, waste and environment sectors with expertise built from over 80 years of work.

WRc assists governments and regulatory bodies in creating soundly based regulation and helps organisations impacted by regulation (particularly water utilities, waste management companies, local authorities and their suppliers) to optimise operational efficiency and minimise risk.


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