The Water Research Institute (IRSA) was established in 1968 with the aim of carrying out research activities in the fields of management and protection of water resources and in the development of methodologies and technologies for water purification and treatment of urban and industrial wastewater. Multidisciplinarity has always been the main peculiarity and “strength” of IRSA, where engineers, chemists, geologists, biologists, physicists, etc., work together in the research groups..

The thematic research activities are developed within the CNR mission through projects within the various Research Areas of the Department of Earth System Sciences and Environmental Technologies (DSTTA) and other interdepartmental initiatives. Furthermore, the institute is involved in European and other international projects and in projects financed by Ministries (Environment, Health, Research, Economic Development), public institutions (Civil Protection, Basin Authority, Regions, Provinces), and by the private sector (Industries, Companies, SMEs).
Since its foundation, the Institute has been divided into three locations, one in the North: Brugherio (MB), one in the Center: Montelibretti (Rome) and one in the South: Bari (BA), whose research activities mainly focus on pollution, water quality and their effects on biological communities (at Brugherio and Montelibretti), processes for wastewater and sludge treatment and methodologies for water resources management and protection (at Bari and Montelibretti).
Since September 2018, two prestigious, additional locations have been added to the Institute: Verbania (VB), where research is carried out mostly at the ecosystem level, and Taranto (TA), with a focus on the integrated approach for the sustainable management of the coastal strip.