In 2019 Water Research Australia celebrated 10 years since our successful transition from a Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) to an industry-funded organisation. Past CEOs joined us to share this milestone and reflect on our success to date.
The origins of Water Research Australia Limited (WaterRA) date back 20 years to the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Quality and Treatment (CRC WQT). WaterRA and its predecessor organisations represent a unique, long-standing and collaborative partnership model that benefits all sectors of the Australian water industry and the community.
The CRC WQT ran for 14 years over two funding terms from 1995 – 2008. The CRC WQT grew into a well-supported, diverse Australian industry/research network – that also built enduring partnerships with international organisations in many countries facing similar water issues.
As the CRC WQT approached the end of its second funding cycle, the Governing Boards of the CRC WQT and Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) worked together to establish a self-funded entity that could build on the successful work of the CRC WQT.
The formation of Water Quality Research Australia (WQRA) was an initiative of a significant representative group of Australia’s water industry participants, water research centres and related organisations that saw the need for an independent organisation that could deliver a responsive research agenda to meet the needs of water supply managers in a time of accelerated change. WQRA was launched in late 2008 as a profit-for-purpose, member funded company with a representative Board of Directors led by an independent Chair.
Over the 14 years that the CRC WQT operated it received $40.2M in cash from the Federal Government and industry partners and $57.6M in kind - a total of $97.8M invested in research for the industry.
The CRC WQT ceased in July 2008 and Water Quality Research Australia Ltd was incorporated a year earlier to allow some overlap with, and transition from, the existing CRC WQT.
At the conclusion of the CRC WQT, more than 80 research reports had been completed. One of the key outcomes of the CRC WQT was the translation of research outputs into the development of the Water Quality Management Framework, which was incorporated into the Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.
The establishment of WQRA marked the successful transition from a CRC model to an industry-funded company – a major achievement in itself. Furthermore it provided evidence of commitment by the water industry and its research partners to continue to address the needs of the Australian water industry through its facilitation of excellence and collaboration in national water R&D projects.
When WQRA was created, it was recognised that it would have to be focussed and efficient to maximise research impact with a lower income, post-CRC WQT. After five years, the partners in WQRA had many runs on the board – a diverse and stimulating portfolio of projects, a loyal and engaged membership, a group of bright post-graduate students and new initiatives designed to improve business effectiveness and implementation of the research outcomes. All of this was achieved by leveraging off contributions by the membership.
It was clear, however, that there is potential for a bigger role in the Australian water industry landscape. The ambition of the Board, Management and staff, for WQRA was to grow the business significantly, and in 2013 the Board and Membership voted overwhelmingly to change the company’s name to Water Research Australia Limited, including updating the constitution to reflect a broader scope of work.
Water Research Australia came into being on July 1, 2013 and continues to build on the strengths in networking, collaboration, project delivery and scientific excellence of its predecessors.
The inaugural CRC WQT Board in 1995