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Our History




NWRI was established in 1991 to address water supply and quality challenges facing our nation through cooperative research efforts. Our mission is to create new sources of water through research and technology and to protect the freshwater and marine environments.


NWRI's main source of funding is provided by the Joan Irvine Smith and Athalie R. Clarke Foundation. Mrs. Joan Irvine Smith, a philanthropist from San Juan Capistrano, California, encouraged the establishment of NWRI because she recognized that water was critically important to a viable economy and healthy environment, especially in regions like arid Southern California.


"When I was growing up," Mrs. Smith said in 1999 speech, "I spent many of my school vacations visiting my grandfather, James Irvine II, at the Irvine Ranch. I often accompanied him on inspection tours of his wells, irrigation lines and ditches, and reservoirs and dams. From this childhood experience, it was deeply impressed upon me that no problem overshadowed the Irvine Ranch more than the supply of water."


To learn more about the Joan Irvine Smith & Athalie R. Clarke Foundation, watch the video on the “Twentieth Anniversary Celebration: Tribute to Mrs. Athalie R. Clarke” presented by James Irvine Swinden, son of Mrs. Smith, at the 2013 Clarke Prize Award Ceremony and Lecture.


Based in Fountain Valley, California, NWRI was organized under a Joint Powers Agreement and governed by a Board of Directors originally made up of five water and wastewater agencies located in Orange County, California.


NWRI is now governed by six water and wastewater agencies from across Southern California, including the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, Irvine Ranch Water District, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Orange County Sanitation District, Orange County Water District, and West Basin Municipal Water District.



NWRI's first Executive Director, Ronald B. Linsky, served from 1991 to until his death in 2005. Under his leadership, NWRI grew into one of the one of the prominent research organizations of its kind. Linsky oversaw over $15 million in research investments and held over 40 conferences and workshops. He was well-known for his advocacy of the "value of water" and for collaborating with overseas partners, such as China, Australia, Singapore, and Oman.


Jeffrey J. Mosher succeeded Linsky as the new Executive Director in 2005. Under his tenure, NWRI has expanded many of its existing programs, such as NWRI Independent Advisory Panels and the NWRI Fellowship Program, to meet specific needs in water research, education, and outreach. Mosher's focus is on helping utilities address issues of critical importance to the water and wastewater community.



Please click here to learn more about NWRI's activities from its founding in 1991 to the present.