IWA History

An Influential Gathering of People & Ideas

IWA’s history dates back to the year 1947. During the 75-year anniversary celebrations in 2022 at the IWA World Water Congress and Exhibition in Copenhagen, Denmark, the association sparked interest in revisiting its rich history. The organisation’s origins can be traced back to two major worldwide professional/technical water associations: the International Water Supply Association (IWSA), formed in 1947, and the International Association of Water Pollution Research (IAWPR), founded in 1962/1965. In 1980, IAWPR was renamed the International Association of Water Pollution Research and Control (IAWPRC), and in 1990, it evolved again as the International Association of Water Quality (IAWQ). The International Water Association (IWA) was founded in 1999 as a result of the merger of IWSA and IAWQ.

This span of time and involvement of multiple organisations means IWA’s history is a complicated topic. The 75-year landmark prompted an initiative to better this history document. In a major first step, former IWA Executive Director Paul Reiter has undertaken and led extensive research to set down the history in written form. The result of that work is set out in the resources available below.

Before IWA, the two associations (IWSA and IAWQ) had separate causes, cultures, and working methods. The focus of IWSA was on drinking water and it aimed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of water supply while simultaneously it was monitoring the emerging regulatory standards. By the 1930’s, most advanced countries had developed dependable drinking water solutions, at least in the bigger cities. The focus of IAWPR/IAWQ was on wastewater treatment. In terms of research and science on the aquatic environment and the effects of water pollution, the means and methods of pollution were in their early stages in the 1950’s.

The two organisations considered and eventually decided to join forces in 1999. The ensuing united associations could capitalise on the qualities of each of the predecessor organisations, resulting in the new, vibrant, and resilient IWA that exists today. Download the resources available on this page to learn more about our 75-year heritage.