Water Management – Eliminate Subscription Fees to Water Research Foundation

Savings: $515,000

In 2009 and 2010, the City spent $514,806 in subscription fees to the Water Research Foundation, a subscriber-based organization that funds research related to the delivery of drinking water.  Currently, the foundation has over 900 subscribers, mostly consisting of water utilities, such as the Department of Water Management (DWM).[1]  Subscribers gain the benefit of access to the research produced by the Foundation and the chance to propose research projects.  Subscription costs are based on the amount of water that the utility delivers annually.  Given that DWM is an extremely large water utility (the Jardine and South Water Treatment plants are, respectively, the largest and second largest water filtration plants in the world), it paid the maximum subscription cost in 2009, which was $514,806.[2]

Under this option, the City would cease its membership in the Water Research Foundation thus saving the $514,806 in subscription costs.

Proponents might argue that this is an extremely high fee to pay for access to research.  While the foundation likely produces valuable research, the City cannot afford such a high fee given the large deficit and economic downturn.  Some might additionally argue that the City should not pay such a high fee because it is difficult to assess the value the City is receiving for this spending.  Instead of ending the subscription altogether, the City should leverage its position as the industry leader to negotiate with the Foundation for a substantially reduced subscription rate citing the City’s current financial hardship.  The Foundation likely needs the City more than the City needs the Foundation.


Opponents might argue that the Water Research Foundation has a set schedule of subscription fees and in order to participate in the organization it is only fair that DWM pay the organization’s standard subscription costs.  Some might argue that the research and data that the City gains access to through the Foundation is an investment in more efficient water delivery and likely more than pays for itself.  Others might point out that other large cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia are members of the Water Research Foundation.[3]

Discussion and Additional Questions

Some questions to consider when deciding whether to implement this option include:

  • Is there any notable research which the City would have missed had it not been a member?
  • Has City changed anything it does in response to foundation research?
  • Does membership give the City a leadership role in this area, arguably important for the biggest city located on the largest source of fresh water in the US?

 Budget Details

Dept: Water Management, 088 Bureau: NA
Fund: Water Fund, 0200 Approp Code: NA



[1] Water Research Foundation. “About the Water Research Foundation.”


[2] Water Research Foundation. “2010 Canadian Utility Subscription Worksheet.”

[3] Water Research Foundation. Board of Trustees.