The performance characteristics of relatively shallow (3.3 and 3.7 m sidewater depth in 30.5 m diameter) activated sludge secondary clarifiers were extensively evaluated during a 2-year testing program at the City of Akron Water Reclamation Facility (WRF), Ohio, USA. Testing included hydraulic and solids loading stress tests, and measurement of sludge characteristics (zone settling velocity (ZSV), dispersed and flocculated total suspended solids), and the results were used to calibrate computational fluid dynamic (CFD) models of the various clarifiers tested. The results demonstrated that good performance could be sustained at surface overflow rates in excess of 3 m/h, as long as the clarifier influent mixed liquor suspended solids (MLSS) concentration was controlled to below critical values. The limiting solids loading rate (SLR) was significantly lower than the value predicted by conventional solids flux analysis based on the measured ZSV/MLSS relationship. CFD analysis suggested that this resulted because mixed liquor entering the clarifier was being directed into the settled sludge blanket, diluting it and also creating a ‘thin’ concentration sludge blanket that overlays the thicker concentration sludge blanket typically expected. These results indicate the need to determine the allowable SLR for shallow clarifiers using approaches other than traditional solids flux analysis. A combination of actual testing and CFD analyses are demonstrated here to be effective in doing so.